Chinese satellite reveals global net carbon has reached six gigatons

Shane McGlaun - Jul 25, 2021, 10:33am CDT
Chinese satellite reveals global net carbon has reached six gigatons

A Chinese satellite designed to monitor carbon output around the globe has created what the researchers say is the first global carbon flux map. The satellite is called Tansat and has found that the global net carbon is six gigatons. To put that in perspective, six gigatons is roughly 12 times the mass of all living humans.

Researchers say that mass of carbon appears to be emitted over land every year, according to data gathered by the satellite. The team used data on how carbon mixes with dry air collected between May 2017 and April 2018 to create the global carbon flux map. Researchers developed the map by applying Tansat satellite observations to the models of how greenhouse gases are exchanged in the Earth’s atmosphere, land, water, and by living organisms.

During the process, more than 100 gigatons of carbon are exchanged. However, the increase in carbon emissions resulted in net carbon being added to the atmosphere at a rate of about six gigatons per year. Scientists on the project say this is a significant issue that contributes to climate change. Researchers on the project admit that satellite measurements aren’t as accurate as ground-based measurements. However, satellite measurements provide continuous global observation coverage delivering additional information not available from limited or varied surface monitoring stations.

A monitoring station in the city could report very different observations than a station in a remote village, particularly if the climates are significantly different. There are multiple satellites in orbit gathering similar data on carbon emissions on Earth’s surface. Satellites include Tansat, Japan’s GOSAT, and a satellite from the US called OCO-2.

Data gathered by the satellites and similar future missions will be used to independently verify national emission inventories across the globe. The program is being overseen by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, beginning in 2023. According to paper co-author Yi Liu, the verification method will be helpful to understand carbon emissions in real-time and help ensure transparency across inventories.

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