Satel­lite to give clearer pic­ture of global emis­sions

A closer look at the satel­lite

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

An ob­ser­va­tion satel­lite launched on Thurs­day by China to mon­i­tor car­bon diox­ide lev­els in Earth’s at­mos­phere aims to pro­vide a clearer pic­ture of whether coun­tries’ ef­forts to cut emis­sions are work­ing.

“The satel­lite will keep a clear record of CO2 emis­sions and ab­sorp­tion in dif­fer­ent coun­tries,” said Li Ji­a­hong, chief en­gi­neer of China’s Na­tional Re­mote Sens­ing Cen­ter. “It will also iden­tify emis­sions sources with higher ef­fi­ciency than tra­di­tional mea­sures.

“This will give us a big­ger global voice on cli­mate change is­sues as well as in­flu­ence in the thriv­ing global emis­sions trad­ing mar­ket,” Li said.

The satel­lite, which was launched from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in Northwest China at 3:22 am, will mea­sure CO2 lev­els ev­ery 16 days.

CO2 is one of the main gases that trap heat near the sur­face of Earth and re­sult in the green­house ef­fect.

“Although CO2 is the ma­jor green­house gas to be blamed for global warm­ing, it con­sti­tutes only a tiny part of Earth’s at­mos­phere. It’s very dif­fi­cult to pre­cisely mea­sure the lev­els,” said Yang Zhong­dong, a re­searcher at the China Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion and chief de­signer of the satel­lite’s ground ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem.

At­mo­spheric con­cen­tra­tions of CO2 have in­creased by 40 per­cent since the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion.

The car­bon emis­sions data used for ne­go­ti­a­tions at in­ter­na­tional cli­mate sum­mits are based on statis­tics in­clud­ing fos­sil fuel us­age and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“De­spite be­ing widely used, the data have many un­cer­tain­ties, such as CO2 emis­sions brought about by fos­sil fu­els,” Yang said. “Satel­lite ob­ser­va­tion from space, on the other hand, can ef­fec­tively re­duce the un­cer­tainty and pro­vide more ac­cu­rate data.”

Cur­rently, there are two car­bon satel­lites in use: the United States’ Or­bit­ing Car­bon Ob­ser­va­tory-2, which was launched in 2014, and one launched by Ja­pan in 2009.

“Although data gath­ered by the ex­ist­ing satel­lites is shared among cli­mate re­searchers world­wide, our sci­en­tists will still ben­e­fit a lot from more in­for­ma­tion pro- vided with first­hand ma­te­rial from our own satel­lite,” said Yin Zeng­shan, the Chi­nese satel­lite’s chief de­signer.

“We’re tak­ing a tech­nol­ogy route sim­i­lar to NASA’s OCO-2. How­ever, since our car­bon satel­lite is a late- comer, we man­aged to over­come some de­fi­cien­cies of the OCO -2 and get bet­ter sig­nal in­ten­sity,” said Yin, who is a re­searcher at the Shang­hai En­gi­neer­ing Cen­ter for Mi­crosatel­lites af­fil­i­ated with the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences.

In May, NASA an­nounced that it is build­ing OCO-3, a more pow­er­ful in­stru­ment that will be in­stalled on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. Ja­pan and the Euro­pean Union have also an­nounced plans for space ob­ser­va­tion of CO2.

“The cur­rent three satel­lites of China, the US and Ja­pan are far from enough in terms of ob­serv­ing quan­tity and cov­er­age. More satel­lites will be needed af­ter ob­serv­ing tech­niques are tested via th­ese projects,” said Yang at the China Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He said CO2 ob­ser­va­tion tech­nol­ogy will also be in­stalled on China’s Fengyun 3 me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal satel­lites and the Gaofen high-res­o­lu­tion Earth ob­ser­va­tion satel­lites.

Source: Chi­nese Academy of Sciences IL­LUS­TRA­TION PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

IL­LUS­TRA­TION PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY XINHUA NEWS AGENCY

Re­searchers cal­i­brate backup equip­ment for the satel­lite in a lab in Changchun, Jilin prov­ince, on Dec 16.

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