A New Satellite Is Monitoring Greenhouse Gases and Pollution

The threat of pollution and climate change has been a huge topic over the past few decades. You would have to have been asleep in a cave somewhere not to have heard about it by now. Of course, the topic has also been batted around like a tennis ball in recent political arenas. It is not so much that some people do not believe climate change is indeed occurring; the disagreement is more about the rate of the climate change. Some officials are urging more drastic measures than are other people.

Monitoring the Emissions from Space

Overall, there is some obvious evidence of the existence of pollution on the planet Earth. All a person has to do is visit a few large cities in the world such as Hong Kong – if you do go there, you will never doubt the presence of pollution ever again. This is also the case in some of the world’s most prominent manufacturing hubs.

The cool thing is that we are now going above our planet to get a direct overview of just how horrible things have gotten. The European Space Agency (ESA) has recently launched a very advanced and sophisticated air pollution measuring satellite. The objective here is to map out global evaluations pollution across the surface of the Earth.

Unique and Powerful Satellite

Recently, controllers from the ESA have already gotten the very first signal from this satellite that had previously blasted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome located in Russia. This Sentinel-5P satellite, which is also referred to as Precursor, belongs to the Copernicus program of the European Union. There are actually six satellites currently in orbit that are part of this same program. However, Precursor is the only and first one to evaluate the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere.

“Having Sentinel-5P in orbit will give us daily and global views at our atmosphere with a precision we never had before,” said Josef Aschbacher, who is the ESA director of these Earth observation programs.

While Precursor is not actually the first satellite that had this critical mission, it is the first one in quite a while to have this mission. The only other existing satellite that is tasked with currently evaluating Earth pollution is Aura which belongs to NASA and was launched in the year 2004.

And since that time, there have been several technological improvements. Stephen Briggs, who is the senior advisor to the ESA director, said, “Sentinel-5P carries an instrument called Tropomi, which is very powerful because it has a very wide swath — 2,600 kilometers wide (1,615 miles). That means that it will give us the view of the whole Earth every day. Every day, we will get measurements of every point on the Earth.”

By having Tropomi, which was created largely by the Netherlands’ national meteorological agency (KNMI), the satellite can measure lots of pollutants, which includes sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide levels, as well as formaldehyde, ozone, carbon monoxide, and greenhouse gases.

“Tropomi will make 20 million observations every day, covering the entire globe at a resolution that is 10 times better than we have ever seen before,” said KNMI principal investigator Pepijn Veefkind. “That allows us to see pollution in cities on a much finer scale. In Rotterdam, for example, we will be able to distinguish the harbour from the city centre; and we will be able to see the pollution in shipping lanes over the oceans.”