Satellites to monitor carbon levels of the oceans

Satellites are key to monitoring ocean carbon
© iStock/Pgiam

Satellites are now playing a major role in monitoring the carbon levels of the oceans, so we can know how much carbon emissions are stored in the ocean.

The oceans have helped slow climate change as they absorb and store carbon for thousands of years. The IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, researchers identify the critical role that the oceans play in the regulation of our climate.

The new study, led by the University of Exeter, suggests that humans need to take advantage of the existing satellites in order to enable us to fill in critical knowledge gaps.

Satellites originally launched to study the wind, also has the capacity to observe rain, wind, waves, foam and temperature, which are all factors in controlling the movement of heat, carbon dioxide between the ocean and the atmosphere.

The satellites that were once launched to monitor gas over the land can also be used to measure carbon dioxide emissions as they cover the ocean.

Further satellite missions could offer more extensive information about the effects of climate change on the oceans. Another benefit of launching more satellites is the ability to study the internal circulation of the ocean. As new constellations of commercial satellites emerge, there are more opportunities to monitor the weather and life on land, as well as monitoring ocean health.

“Monitoring carbon uptake by the oceans is now critical to understand our climate and for ensuring the future health of the animals that live there,” said lead author Dr Jamie Shutler, of the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Dr Shutler continued: “By monitoring the oceans we can gather the necessary information to help protect ecosystems at risk and motivate societal shifts towards cutting carbon emissions.”

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