NASA launches CO2 observatory into orbit
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 2:12 -
The $468m (£272m) Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) fired off from the Vandenburg Air Force Base in California on board a Delta rocket.
The mission was delayed by a day during Tuesday’s countdown due to an issue with the water system, which is used to dampen the vibration and noise produced from the rocket tacking off.
The mission is NASA’s first dedicated observatory for remote sensing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Its aim is to map the global distribution of the greenhouse gas across the globe and by doing so, determine how it is cycled around the world.
OCO-2 will fly in a near-polar orbit and take readings of most of the Earth’s surface at least once every sixteen days. Over half of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans and through vegetation. The aim of this mission is determine exactly where this absorbed CO2 is going around the world and have a better understanding of how these ‘sinks’ of CO2 will cope into the future.
The worry is that the oceans and vegetation will only be able to absorb so much CO2. If these sinks of carbon dioxide become unable to absorb such large amounts of the gas into the future, atmospheric CO2 levels could increase at a much greater rate. This could then have a huge impact on the warming of the world’s atmosphere, unless emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are dramatically reduced.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution began at the end of the 18th Century in the UK, which then subsequently spread around the world. However, the increase in the concentration of the greenhouse gas has accelerated over the last 100 years. Currently the atmospheric CO2 concentration is around 400ppm, the highest level in the atmosphere for several million years.Follow Chris Burton on Google+, Twitter