Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time. A significant reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane is required to limit the temperature increase. Satellites can continuously and impartially monitor progress in the struggle against global warming. In particular, the monitoring of power plants, industrial facilities and coal mines is crucial since they emit large quantities of these harmful greenhouse gases. However, until now the spatial resolution of the available instruments was inadequate for detecting the contributions made by the individual actors responsible.
For that reason, the CO2Image mission carries as its main payload an imaging spectrometer that is especially designed to measure point sources. A new instrument design makes it possible to measure trace gas emissions at extremely high spatial resolution. While current and planned ESA missions like Sentinel-5p and CO2M achieve a resolution of several kilometres, CO2Image will have a measurement point every 50 metres. CO2Image functions somewhat like a magnifying glass by measuring the emissions of small and medium-size power plants and industrial sites, thereby augmenting missions that record the global trace gas situation at lower resolution.
Left: Geographic distribution of estimated annual CO2 emissions from power plants worldwide (CARMA database).
Right: Cumulative distribution of the CO2 emissions shown at left. It can be seen that ca. 64 % of the CO2 emissions comes from medium-size power plants (1-10 Mt per year). (images from: Strandgren et al.)
The mission is led by DLR’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics. The development of the high-resolution spectrometer COSIS takes place at DLR’s Institute of Optical Sensor Systems. The control and monitoring of the satellite is handled by DLR’s Space Operations facility, while the science data is processed, archived and supplied by EOC. This makes it possible to rely on EOC’s decades of experience in the area of earth observation data processing for similar missions (SCIAMACHI, Sentinel-5p) and on its expertise in calibrating optical instrument for earth observation purposes.
The DLR scientists participating in the CO2Image mission are available for questions and further information at the ILA stand (June 21–26).