Characterizing biospheric carbon balance using CO2 observations from the OCO-2...

Miller, S. M., A. M. Michalak, V. Yadav, and J. M. Tadić (2018), Characterizing biospheric carbon balance using CO2 observations from the OCO-2 satellite, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 6785-6799, doi:10.5194/acp-18-6785-2018.

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO2) satellite launched in summer of 2014. Its observations could allow scientists to constrain CO2 fluxes across regions or continents that were previously difficult to monitor. This study explores an initial step toward that goal; we evaluate the extent to which current OCO-2 observations can detect patterns in biospheric CO2 fluxes and constrain monthly CO2 budgets. Our goal is to guide top-down, inverse modeling studies and identify areas for future improvement. We find that uncertainties and biases in the individual OCO-2 observations are comparable to the atmospheric signal from biospheric fluxes, particularly during Northern Hemisphere winter when biospheric fluxes are small. A series of top-down experiments indicate how these errors affect our ability to constrain monthly biospheric CO2 budgets. We are able to constrain budgets for between two and four global regions using OCO-2 observations, depending on the month, and we can constrain CO2 budgets at the regional level (i.e., smaller than seven global biomes) in only a handful of cases (16 % of all regions and months). The potential of the OCO-2 observations, however, is greater than these results might imply. A set of synthetic data experiments suggests that retrieval errors have a salient effect. Advances in retrieval algorithms and to a lesser extent atmospheric transport modeling will improve the results. In the interim, top-down studies that use current satellite observations are best-equipped to constrain the biospheric carbon balance across only continental or hemispheric regions.

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Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)