Carbon dioxide is one of the most important and long-lived greenhouse gases. In fact, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide -- both manmade and natural -- are responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth's temperature to rise. OCO-3 will measure and map CO2 with such high spatial resolution, that, combined with the valuable 4.5 year dataset of its predecessor OCO-2, will paint the most detailed picture ever of human and plant influences on the carbon cycle and in turn, climate. Specifically, the measurements will help us to understand whether the land and oceans will continue to absorb roughly half of the CO2 that is emitted each year through human consumption, or whether that rate will decrease in the future as demonstrated by these findings.
OCO-3 will be mounted on the International Space Station whose orbit will enable it to measure plant fluorescence from dawn to dusk anywhere between 52 deg north and south latitudes -- London to Patagonia -- for a period of at least three years. How do we do this? Because of the space station's orbit, OCO-3 will pass over any given location a little earlier each day, spanning all sunlit hours of that location in a period of about 30 days. This will enable scientists to study how factors such as light, water, and temperature affect plant activity over the course of a day, weeks, months, and years. These insights will enable better management of water, forests, and food supplies. Please read Watching the Planet Breathe: The SIF Story to learn more!
OCO-3 is equipped with an innovative targeting mechanism that will allow it to measure carbon dioxide emissions from almost any 50 mile by 50 mile region of interest. The instrument will sample emission sources and gradients, areas where plants and crops are being studied, volcanos, and other local carbon sources from space. These observations will provide data necessary to better understand how well we can determine emissions from space-based observations.
OCO-3 will share the space station with two other NASA instruments -- ECOSTRESS and GEDI. Together, these instruments will tell us how plants respond to weather, heat stress, and climate from the warm tropics to the frozen tundra. This will enable improved understanding of the interaction of carbon and climate at different time scales. This combination of data will provide a more complete picture of the carbon cycle because, as the old adage goes, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."