Scientists were able to pinpoint three tropical rain forest regions as responsible for a big spike in carbon emissions thanks to the OCO-2 satellite.
We reported recently on a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions around the world that has alarmed scientists, but it’s how researchers made the discovery that could forever change our understanding of climate change and help us better predict temperature changes in the future – and what effects they’ll have on the planet.
The unique aspect of this discovery is that scientists made it using a NASA satellite named the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2), a remarkable spacecraft that can map out carbon emissions from high above the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists found that three tropical rain forest regions were to blame for the spike, a discovery that would have been difficult in the past because field stations in such remote areas are tough to set up, not to mention the fact that thunderstorms would alter land measurements and make them unreliable.
OCO-2 is one of many satellites that NASA has quietly been sending up into the atmosphere to monitor climate change, joining other spacecraft responsible for monitoring the ozone layer, measuring ice both on land and at sea, recording temperatures worldwide, and even watching pollution levels.
“These capabilities — nearly 30 years of satellite-based solar and atmospheric temperature data — helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change come to the conclusion in 2007 that ‘Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations,’ a NASA statement notes. “But there’s still a lot to learn about what the consequences will be. How much warmer will it get? How will sea level rise progress? NASA scientists and engineers will help answer these and other critical questions in the future.”