Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

OCO-2 Data to Lead Scientists Forward into the Past
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 23, 2014

Scientists will use measurements from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 to track atmospheric carbon dioxide to sources such as these wildfires in Siberia, whose smoke plumes quickly carry the greenhouse gas worldwide. The fires were imaged on May 18 by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer instrument on the Terra satellite. Image courtesy NASA/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. For a larger version of this image please go here.

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which launched on July 2, will soon be providing about 100,000 high-quality measurements each day of carbon dioxide concentrations from around the globe. Atmospheric scientists are excited about that. But to understand the processes that control the amount of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, they need to know more than just where carbon dioxide is now. They need to know where it has been. It takes more than great data to figure that out.

"In a sense, you're trying to go backward in time and space," said David Baker, a scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. "You're reversing the flow of the winds to determine when and where the input of carbon at the Earth's surface had to be to give you the measurements you see now."

Harry Potter used a magical time turner to travel to the past. Atmospheric scientists use a type of computer model called a chemical transport model.

It combines the atmospheric processes found in a climate model with additional information on important chemical compounds, including their reactions, their sources on Earth's surface and the processes that remove them from the air, known as sinks.

Baker used the example of a forest fire to explain how a chemical transport model works. "Where the fire is, at that point in time, you get a pulse of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning carbon in wood. The model's winds blow it along, and mixing processes dilute it through the atmosphere. It gradually gets mixed into a wider and wider plume that eventually gets blown around the world."

Some models can be run backward in time -- from a point in the plume back to the fire, in other words -- to search for the sources of airborne carbon dioxide. The reactions and processes that must be modeled are so complex that researchers often cycle their chemical transport models backward and forward through the same time period dozens of times, adjusting the model as each set of results reveals new clues. "You basically start crawling toward a solution," Baker said.

"You may not be crawling straight toward the best answer, but you course-correct along the way."

Lesley Ott, a climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, noted that simulating carbon dioxide's atmospheric transport correctly is a prerequisite for improving the way global climate models simulate the carbon cycle and how it will change with our changing climate.

"If you get the transport piece right, then you can understand the piece about sources and sinks," she said. "More and better-quality data from OCO-2 are going to create better characterization of global carbon."

Baker noted that the volume of data provided by OCO-2 will improve knowledge of carbon processes on a finer scale than is currently possible. "With all that coverage, we'll be able to resolve what's going on at the regional scale," Baker said, referring to areas the size of Texas or France.

"That will help us understand better how the forests and oceans take up carbon. There are various competing processes, and right now we're not sure which ones are most important."

Ott pointed out that improving the way global climate models represent carbon dioxide provides benefits far beyond the scientific research community. "Trying to figure out what national and international responses to climate change should be is really hard," she said.

"Politicians need answers quickly. Right now we have to trust a very small number of carbon dioxide observations. We're going to have a lot better coverage because so much more data is coming, and we may be able to see in better detail features of the carbon cycle that were missed before." Taking those OCO-2 data backward in time may be the next step forward on the road to understanding and adapting to climate change.


Related Links
OCO-2 mission
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Ten-Year Endeavor: NASA's Aura Tracks Pollutants
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jul 21, 2014
When astronaut William Anders flew on the first manned mission to orbit the moon in 1968, he photographed the surreal view of Earth rising above the lunar horizon. "We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth," Anders famously said. Back on the planet though, problems were brewing in the atmosphere. Exhaust from cars and pollutants ... read more

China's biggest moon challenge: returning to earth

Lunar Pits Could Shelter Astronauts, Reveal Details of How 'Man in the Moon' Formed

Manned mission to Moon scheduled by Roscosmos for 2020-2031

Landsat Looks to the Moon

NASA Seeks Proposals for Commercial Mars Data Relay Satellites

Emirates paves way for Middle East space program with mission to Mars

Curiosity's images show Earth-like soils on Mars

India could return to Mars as early as 2017

NASA Explores Additional Undersea Missions With NEEMO Projects 18 and 19

NASA Awards Construction Contract at Kennedy Space Center

Sierra Nevada Completes Major Dream Chaser NASA CCiCap Milestone

NASA Partners Punctuate Summer with Spacecraft Development Advances

China to launch HD observation satellite this year

Lunar rock collisions behind Yutu damage

China's Fast Track To Circumlunar Mission

Chinese moon rover designer shooting for Mars

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

Russian Cargo Craft Launches for 6-Hour Trek to ISS

ISS Crew Opens Cargo Ship Hatch, Preps for CubeSat Deployment

Russian cargo craft docks with ISS, science satellite fails

SpaceX releases video of rocket splashing into the ocean

China to launch satellite for Venezuela

SpaceX Soft Lands Falcon 9 Rocket First Stage

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 Flights Deemed Successful

The Most Precise Measurement of an Alien World's Size

'Challenges' in quest to find water on Earth-like worlds: study

Transiting Exoplanet with Longest Known Year

Brown Dwarfs May Wreak Havoc on Orbits of Nearby Planets

Diode laser strong enough to cut metal developed by former MIT scientists

Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

UAMS To Help Establish NSBRI Center for Space Radiation Research

A new multi-bit 'spin' for MRAM storage

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.