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Observing Carbon Cycle-climate feedbacks from space

Sellers, P. J., D. S. Schimel, B. Moore, J. Liu, and A. Eldering (2018), Observing Carbon Cycle-climate feedbacks from space, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 115, 7860-7868, doi:10.1073/pnas.1716613115.

The impact of human emissions of carbon dioxide and methane on climate is an accepted central concern for current society. It is increasingly evident that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane are not simply a function of emissions but that there are myriad feedbacks forced by changes in climate that affect atmospheric concentrations. If these feedbacks change with changing climate, which is likely, then the effect of the human enterprise on climate will change. Quantifying, understanding, and articulating the feedbacks within the carbon–climate system at the process level are crucial if we are to employ Earth system models to inform effective mitigation regimes that would lead to a stable climate. Recent advances using space-based, more highly resolved measurements of carbon exchange and its component processes—photosynthesis, respiration, and biomass burning—suggest that remote sensing can add key spatial and process resolution to the existing in situ systems needed to provide enhanced understanding and advancements in Earth system models. Information about emissions and feedbacks from a long-term carbon–climate observing system is essential to better stewardship of the planet.

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Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)