The European Space Agency has announced plans to build a constellation of satellites that will measure the emission of greenhouse gases with extremely high accuracy from space and will combine it with computer modeling to pinpoint the man-made sources of such emissions. This is not the first time that satellites have been brought into a climate change dialogue. Scientists have been using satellite data to study weather patterns, forest loss, melting of glaciers and polar ice, drying up water bodies, bleaching of coral reefs, wildlife migration, and more.

ESA has played an essential role in such studies as well. In August this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a critically important report about climate change and the urgent need for mitigation steps. ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI), which handles multiple satellite missions, was mentioned as one of the sources for conducting the research. In the same month, Google Earth got a Timelapse feature that combined 24 million satellite photos captured over the last 37 years and served as a reminder of how much Earth’s climate has changed in that duration.

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At the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the ESA announced that it is building a constellation of satellites for monitoring man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. The satellite constellation is being developed in partnership with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites as part of the new CO2 Monitoring and Verification Support (CO2MOVS) program for studying greenhouse emissions resulting from human activity. And unlike a few billionaires who are building satellite constellations to sell internet connectivity, ESA says its mission will help tackle the climate challenge by providing concrete data about the harmful anthropogenic gaseous emissions.


ESA Seeks To Monitor Man-Made Sources Of Emission

ESA monitoring greenhouse emission with satellites

The European Space Agency is developing the satellites as part of its Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) observation program. It claims that its planned mission will provide carbon and methane concentration data with an unprecedented level of detail and accuracy. In fact, the planned satellite constellation will be able to provide global coverage in just a few days. It can also identify the specific sources such as power plants or fossil fuel production sites that are producing greenhouse gases. In comparison, the International Space Station completes roughly 15-16 orbits around the Earth each day.


The space agency says the information captured by its satellite constellation will be combined with Earth system modeling and CAMS’ data assimilation chops to provide consistent and reliable information about the emission of greenhouse gases. ESA notes that core elements of the (CO2MOVS) prototype will be ready by the end of 2023, and the system will become fully operational in 2026. Interestingly, the ESA is collaborating with NASA on a mission involving the Sample Retrieval Lander that is planned to take off in 2026 and will make a touchdown on Mars in 2028 near the Jezero crater that was once brimming with water.

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