Nature shares details on NASA’s new International Space Station project – a device that can see CO2 in ways that most satellites can’t:
The US$110-million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) will be attached to the outside of the station. The probe will monitor areas of the planet that aren’t easily surveyed by carbon-measuring satellites1, collecting high-resolution data from larger regions than its predecessors.
Previous research has shown that, on average, 50% of the carbon emitted by people stays in the atmosphere. The world’s oceans and plants store the rest, but far less is known about the exact location of these carbon ‘sinks’ and how climate change affects their ability to store carbon.
NASA’s latest carbon probe will monitor parts of the planet at different times of the day than many other Earth-observing satellites. This will give researchers data on important carbon storage areas — such as the Amazon and the Congo Basin — that are usually obscured by clouds when satellites including OCO-2 fly over, says [University of Michigan climate scientist Gretchen] Keppel-Aleks.
OCO-3 will also measure how much carbon plants are using, which, when combined with its greenhouse-gas data, will help scientists to monitor regions that store a lot of carbon much more closely than before, says [JPL ecologist Nicholas] Parazoo.