Counting Carbon from Space

Sattelites gather data to make up for lazy earthlings

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In the continuing quest to really understand where methane and carbon dioxide are produced and absorbed planet wide, Japan has put a satellite into orbit to start keeping track. Ibuki (it means breathe in Japanese) will cruise through space, circling the planet every 100 minutes, and gathering data at 56,000 points world wide. NASA will launch their Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) later this month to do the same.

What’s amazing here? According to the Economist,

There are presently only 260 terrestrial places around the globe where data on carbon-dioxide levels are monitored to help study the effects of global warming.

The global warming conversation has been going on for how many years? And there are 260 points IN THE WORLD where scientists are gathering data? That’s embarrassingly few. As a reference, there are just shy of 200 countries in the world. So that’s 1.3 carbon monitoring stations per country?? There are more than 31,000 McDonalds in the world, and nearly 14,000 Starbucks. Maybe they could help?

Sattelite data on carbon will be hugely helpful to the scientific community, especially as they try to better understand the carbon impact of an event like a forest fire, try to understand the true impact of forests in absorbing carbon, and look for other carbon sinks. The only drawback: information they gather will not be as accurate as data from on the ground.

Anyone know the carbon footprint of putting two carbon counting satellites into orbit?

The Economist: Accounting from Above

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