The first global maps of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels based on data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory will be created by a University of Michigan researcher and her colleagues.
The team will use sophisticated mathematical techniques to fill information gaps between the satellite’s direct measurements, the closest of which will be 93 miles apart at the equator.
Leading the carbon cartographers is Anna Michalak, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.
OCO is scheduled to launch Feb. 23. As the first NASA satellite designed exclusively to study carbon dioxide, OCO’s data, along with Michalak’s maps, will provide unprecedented detail about this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
OCO will clarify how levels of carbon dioxide fluctuate across continents, oceans, and seasons. It will work to identify the sources and sinks of carbon across the globe. Natural sinks are places that soak up CO2, such as plants and some areas of the oceans. Understanding the Earth’s natural uptakes and emissions of carbon is critical to predicting the planet’s future climate.
Michalak and her colleagues’ work will involve filling the information gaps between the OCO’s measurement points without introducing assumptions that could obscure the results.