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Cracking Earth’s Carbon Puzzle

It’s a scientific conundrum with huge implications for our future: How will our planet react to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

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Carbon – an essential building block for life – does not stay in one place or take only one form. Carbon, both from natural and human-caused sources, moves within and among the atmosphere, ocean and land. 

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We’ve been a trailblazer in using space-based and airborne sensors to observe and quantify carbon in the atmosphere and throughout the land and ocean, working with many U.S. and international partners.

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Our Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is making unprecedented, accurate global measurements of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and providing unique information on associated natural processes.

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ABoVE, our multi-year field campaign in Alaska and Canada is investigating how changes in Arctic ecosystems such as boreal forests in a warming climate result in changes to the balance of carbon moving between the atmosphere and land.

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This August we’re embarking on an ocean expedition with the National Science Foundation to the northeast Pacific called EXPORTS that will help scientists develop the capability to better predict how carbon in the ocean moves, which could change as Earth’s climate changes. 

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ECOSTRESS is slated to launch this summer to the International Space Station to make the first-ever measurements of plant water use and vegetation stress on land – providing key insights into how plants link Earth’s global carbon cycle with its water cycle.

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Later this year, ECOSTRESS will be joined on the space station by GEDI, which will use a space borne laser to help estimate how much carbon is locked in forests and how that quantity changes over time.

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In early 2019, the OCO-3 instrument is scheduled to launch to the space station to complement OCO-2 observations and allow scientists to probe the daily cycle of carbon dioxide exchange processes over much of the Earth.

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And still in the early stages of development is the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCarb) satellite, planned to launch in the early 2020s. GeoCarb will collect 10 million observations a day of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide.

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Our emphasis on carbon cycle science and the development of new carbon-monitoring tools is expected to remain a top priority for years to come. READ MORE.

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Source: NASA

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Cracking Earth’s Carbon Puzzle

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