Can we only exhale CO2 on earth?

Our living planet: CO2 “breathing” of the earth visible from space

07/09/20135395 views13 likes

Satellites have been monitoring greenhouse gas emissions on earth for ten years. It turned out that the proportion of carbon dioxide continues to increase despite international efforts to reduce pollutant emissions. In addition, the observations revealed that the recent increase in methane levels in the air is most likely due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The two main human-made greenhouse gases responsible for global warming are atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane.

Measurements during the Envisat mission by ESA and the Japanese observation satellite for greenhouse gases called GOSAT showed that the global CO2-Emission increased by around 0.5% each year between 2003 and 2013. The methane content has also increased by 0.3 to 0.5% since 2007, after having stagnated for a few years.

As the main reason for the increase in CO2-Emissions in the last decade is considered to be the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Geographical patterns and fluctuations in emissions over time


In contrast, the reasons for the increase in methane levels are more difficult to determine because they are composed of man-made and natural emissions (such as from wetlands and biomass burning).

In addition to the rise in greenhouse gases, the satellites also provide many other findings, such as the exact geographic pattern and temporal fluctuations in emissions.

The strongest fluctuations in CO2-Emissions result from the different seasons and the seasonally varying photosynthesis of the plants. The “breathing” that can be observed in this way is most clearly visible in the middle and higher northern latitudes. These emissions are known to science, as in this part of the world a particularly strong carbon dioxide exchange occurs between the atmosphere and the plants. The reason for this is the boreal forest areas, which remove carbon dioxide from the air during summer (“inhalation”), while in winter they partially excrete it again (“exhalation).

Some CO2 animations tend to underestimate the power of "breathing into the ground"


Dr. Buchwitz, environmental physicist at the University of Bremen and scientific director of the greenhouse gas project GHG-CCI of the ESA Climate Change Initiative, says:

"Some CO2- Animations tend to underestimate the power of "breathing into the ground". However, we have to get to the bottom of it with the help of other animations and methods. The aim of the GHG-CCI project is to generate high-quality data on global emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. In this way we can provide more precise information about the regional sources and sinks of these two important, climate-relevant gases and thereby improve the climate prognoses. "

Although the main source areas of methane gas can be identified through the satellite observations, technically advanced, animation-based methods are required for precise measurement of the emission values, since the atmospheric spread - for example through wind - must also be taken into account.

ESA presents the latest findings at the Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh


"Using the satellite data, we can design detailed, spatial patterns of global methane emissions, which, however, would not be possible with the pure ground measurements, although the resulting data are much more precise," said Dr. Peter Bergamaschi, scientist at the EU Joint Research Center (JRC) in Ispra, Italy.

The greatest scientific challenge is to identify both natural and anthropogenic influences on atmospheric gases.

“One of the most important requirements in this area is continuity. I very much hope that NASA's OCO-2 mission and planned COSAT-2 will be the possible CO2-Closing the data gap between GOSAT and the proposed CarbonSat mission, ”said Dr. Buchwitz.

The ESA will present the latest results from the projects of its Climate Change Initiative next week at the “Living Planet Symposium” in Edinburgh.

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