Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Envisat enables first global check of regional methane emissions

18.03.2005


The SCIAMACHY sensor aboard Envisat has performed the first space-based measurements of the global distribution of near-surface methane, one of the most important greenhouse gases. As reported in Thursday’s issue of Science Express, the results show larger than expected emissions across tropical land regions.



The report concerns work carried out by the Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP) at the University of Heidelberg in cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KMNI), based on interpretation of methane observations made by the SCanning Imaging Absorption SpectroMeter for Atmospheric ChartographY (SCIAMACHY) instrument, one of ten sensors aboard ESA’s Envisat environmental satellite.

A comparison was made between space-based methane observations and model simulations for atmospheric methane for the time period August to November 2003. "In general the observations agree very well with the model," explains Christian Frankenberg of IUP. "For example, the measurements confirm the occurrence of enhanced methane concentrations over the Ganges plains in India as well as parts of China caused by emissions from rice paddies and domestic ruminants such as cattle".


"However in large parts of the tropics there is a considerable difference. It cannot yet be concluded which source category or combination of source categories is responsible for the discrepancy. Potential candidates include wetlands, biomass burning, termites, ruminants or a hitherto unknown source."

These results are of more than just academic interest, since methane is the second most important ’anthropogenic’ or man-made greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Methane is among the six greenhouse gases addressed by the Kyoto Protocol that went into operation last month.

Methane traps heat over 21 times more heat per molecule than CO2. The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled since pre-industrial times, an increase attributed to human activities including energy production and farming.

The overall global source strength of methane is relatively well known," Frankenberg adds. "However the spatial distribution of the emissions, the variations over the year and their division into difference source categories – which is of particular importance for emission monitoring – are still very uncertain. Natural sources of methane are particularly uncertain, and anthropogenic emission estimates rely mostly on socio-economic figures."

SCIAMACHY: sifting through sunlight

SCIAMACHY is a spectrometer that maps the air over a very wide wavelength range, allowing the detection of trace gases, clouds and dust particles throughout the atmosphere.

It uses an innovative technique called Differential Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) to find spectral absorption ’fingerprints’ of trace gases within sunlight transmitted, reflected or scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere or surface in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared regions. Possessing a 960-kilometre swath SCIAMACHY covers the entire world every six days.

This versatile instrument represents a national contribution to ESA’s Envisat mission. SCIAMACHY was funded by the German government through the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the Dutch government through the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes (NIVR) and also the Belgian government through the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB).

Principal Investigator for the SCIAMACHY instrument is John Burrows, also leader of the University of Bremen Institute of Environmental Physics: "SCIAMACHY was primarily selected for flight because of its ability to measure stratospheric ozone and related species. However it was also proposed to investigate the retrieval of trace constituents from the troposphere, the lowest region of the atmosphere.

"When SCIAMACHY was conceived, many scientists thought it would be impossible to obtain any useful results from the troposphere: there are many issues to be overcome for example the cloud cover, the low reflectivity from the surface, and the fact that stratospheric species lie between the troposphere and the satellite.

"Our calculations showed that it is possible and we are now finding it can be done. The instrument is being used to retrieve the columns of several key tropospheric trace gases - not only methane but also nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and dioxide, sulphur dioxide, formaldehyde, bromine monoxide, water vapour, and ozone are retrieved. In addition SCIAMACHY yields many important cloud and aerosol parameters as well as ocean colour."

Research groups at the Universities of Bremen and Heidelberg, KNMI and the Netherlands National Institute for Space Research (SRON) have been working on the retrieval of methane and carbon dioxide from SCIAMACHY.

This activity is supported by the European Union project EnVisat for Environmental Regulation of GREENhouse gases (EVERGREEN), using Envisat data as a first step towards monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, sinks and sources as required by Kyoto.

"The success and stability of SCIAMACHY so far is a tribute to the instrument builders, operators and data retrievers, and an important step on the way to establishing an operational global observing system for the Earth’s atmosphere," adds Burrows. "This is something we need as we enter the new geological age of the Anthropocene, where mankind is the driver of climate change."

SCIAMACHY was preceded by a smaller scale version of the instrument called the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME), flown on ESA’s ERS-2 in 1995. The newest member of this family of atmospheric spectrometers is called GOME-2. Due to launch aboard the MetOp satellite next year, it will be dedicated to operational ozone monitoring.

Into the future, Professor Burrows and his team have also proposed the Geostationary Scanning Imaging Absorption spectrometer (GeoSCIA) an instrument which would - if selected for flight - provide the high temporal and spatial sampling required for a truly representative picture of tropospheric scales and processes.

Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaEO/SEMY9FRMD6E_planet_0.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>