Introduction

Climate Change monitoring

CO2 in the atmosphere has been linked to climate change. Climate change is one phenomenon that has created much-heated debate among experts and non-specialists. While some argue that the notion has been exaggerated to score some political goals, others like NASA and some of the ruling elites from most of the developed nations of the world believe it’s among the most significant threat to human to human existence.

Considering the increase in the rate of melting ice in the Arctic, coupled with the general sense of global warming, it becomes imperative to keep tabs on the climate regarding what is happening in the Earth’s Atmosphere.

Why measure Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere?

Diagram of the Carbon Cycle and Earth's Climate

Carbon Cycle and the Earth’s Climate

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is regarded as one of the most dangerous chemical compound (pollutant) that is highly toxic. It is a silent killer that threatens both men, animals, and plants. When carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere in particular volumes, it poses serious health consequences for the general wellbeing of the atmosphere, man, animals, and plants. Thus, it becomes necessary to measure and monitor the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

NASA to the rescue

Monitoring the level of CO2 in our atmosphere will reveal the inner workings of our planet (Earth). Monitoring CO2 is the key to determine how our world will respond to the effects of climate change. One primary body that has been at the forefront of monitoring CO2 is NASA.

Using a supercomputer and innovative satellite, scientists from NASA has been mapping CO2 in the atmosphere in such unprecedented levels. This helps acquire more knowledge about the workings of plants, how the ocean and land suck up and release Carbon dioxide. Such information is essential as they have the potential to help us determine how our world responds to global warming.

The reality of CO2 in the atmosphere

A New study has shown the growth of CO2 during the El Nino in 2015 to 2016 was most significant. The heat, fire, and drought that occurred in tropical areas were the primary reasons why plants and the soil across three continents contributed to this growth.dry riverbed

It is a fact that plants use carbon dioxide to aid their growth, and that carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. During El Nino, most of the plants didn’t absorb as much carbon dioxide because there was little rain. The temperature was also higher than average in South America, Africa, and Asia. Some plants naturally died and decomposed rapidly; thereby releasing the carbon, they have pulled earlier from the atmosphere.

This may enable scientists to understand better how changes in climate will create systems capable of accelerating global warming.

Innovative monitoring tools

As NASA continues in their quest to understand the forces that cause global warming. It’s in search of ways to achieve far more better measurements of carbon dioxide gas. Thus, in 2007, the National Research Council recommended 17 space missions. One was a NASA mission known as ASCENDS, which means Active Sensing of CO2 Emission over Nights, Days and Seasons or ACES for short.

ASCENDS was introduced as a way to know where atmospheric CO2 comes from and where it goes.

Other measurement tools include NASA passive instruments such as the newly launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. It is an apparatus that makes Carbon dioxide measurements by observing the gas’s effect on sunlight.

A satelite called Carbon Observatory 2 orbiting the earth

Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2

Nighttime monitoring is also essential (since plants like humans even go to sleep) and the tool used in the dark where there is no sunlight is ACES. Unlike Carbon Observatory-2, ACES is active, not passive. It uses a technology known as Light Detection and Ranging, which brings its light in the likeness of a laser to make carbon dioxide measurements.

Other essential Earth-observing satellites used by NASA includes CALIPSO which uses pulsed lidar to study dust and clouds in the atmosphere. Airborne ACES are also helping out as well.

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