NASA prepares first global maps of man-made carbon dioxide emissions

NASA has released the first global maps of carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activities. The map reveals that the highest CO2 emitting regions include Eastern US, Central Europe and East Asia. The maps were prepared using data obtained from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. These were made taking into account the seasonal changes and background CO2 levels.

The maps made extensive use of the data obtained from the NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. It focused on three areas of the planet which has the highest levels of CO2 emissions – The highly industrialised eastern coast of the US, Central Europe and East Asia. The scientists were using a new method to take into account other external factors like seasonal changes and background CO2 levels to pinpoint human emissions. Earlier methods were based on economic data and modelling results.

The regions are displayed in four different grid sizes. Values range from 3ppm CO2 below background levels in navy blue to 3 ppm above in yellow colour. The map also reveals widespread emissions across industrial and urban areas and also smaller pockets of high CO2 throughout.

The CO2 carries some of the most sensitive instruments to measure the carbon dioxide levels from space. Researchers affiliated with the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki found that the map fits exactly with known inventories and greenhouse gas emissions are widespread across urban centres and small areas of high CO2 all over the map. The instruments aboard the OCO-2 are so sensitive that it can pick up emissions from isolated cities for example in faraway Siberia or Alaska.

CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere for an excess of hundred years, and human activities have increased many times over in the last few decades. The background level of CO2 is 400 ppm, and human activities will add another three parts per million to this total. The emission levels are high over Europe, Middle East and North Africa. Fires are large to blame for high greenhouse gas levels over the sub-Saharan region.