NASA Satellite Launched to Help Track 'Challenge of Our Generation'
NASA on Tuesday launched a rocket carrying a satellite that will track atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas fueling climate change—the “challenge of our generation.”
Called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), the satellite will gather data needed to “characterize sources and sinks [places where CO2 is stored] on regional scales” and will “quantify CO2 variability over the seasonal cycles year after year,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains.
Fears that “time is running out” to take meaningful action on climate change have grown since the world passed the “sobering milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere last year. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated, “Climate change is the challenge of our generation.”
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Finding out exactly where all of this CO2 heading into the atmosphere is being “mopped up,” that is, where it’s being absorbed by carbon sinks like forests and the ocean, is one of the questions the scientists are hoping to answer with the OCO-2 data.
“Scientists currently don’t know exactly where and how Earth’s oceans and plants have absorbed more than half the carbon dioxide that human activities have emitted into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era,” said David Crisp, OCO-2 science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
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