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Tracking and tracing atmospheric change


The importance of EUMETSAT’s future satellite missions in the continuous monitoring of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere

nasa earth view
nasa earth view

Specialists from EUMETSAT and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service spoke to Meteorological Technology International about the potential benefits of EUMETSAT’s future satellite programmes in monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Last Updated

29 November 2023

Published on

16 September 2023

The 1987 Montreal Protocol, a landmark multilateral agreement put in place to save the Earth’s ozone layer, is widely regarded as a symbol of the positive impact of human action.

In a recent article published in Meteorological Technology International, Dr Rosemary Munro, EUMETSAT's Polar System Programme Scientist, and Dr Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), consider the importance of continuous atmospheric monitoring and the opportunities presented by EUMETSAT’s future satellite missions.

“When scientists first reported large decreases in stratospheric ozone over Antarctic research stations, the readings were so dramatic that many people thought there must have been a mistake in the data,” Peuch said.

“But as news of the discovery spread, and researchers linked the ozone depletion to the human use of chlorofluorocarbons, fear of immense damage to human health and ecosystems galvanised the world’s countries to collaborate in an unprecedented way.

“Since the turn of the millennium, the depth and area of the ozone layer has been slowly improving. The response has shown how rapid, international action to avoid environmental catastrophe can work.”

In the article, Munro explained how the unique vantage points and heightened capabilities of EUMETSAT’s next-generation satellite missions will play an increasing role in pinpointing the sources of human greenhouse gas emissions, the underlying cause of the global climate crisis.

These include the Copernicus CO2 Monitoring Mission (CO2M) and the Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions – hosted respectively on geostationary Meteosat Third Generation and polar-orbiting Metop Second Generation satellites.

Satellite image
An artist’s impression of one of the satellites on the forthcoming CO2M mission.
Image: OHB

“Next-generation satellite programmes will enhance monitoring capabilities for atmospheric gases and aerosols that are critical for both climate monitoring and air quality forecasts,” Munro said. “Very often the same processes that emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, will also emit pollutants that can be very damaging to human health.

“The combination of observations provided by geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites will enable substantial improvements in spatial and temporal resolution of data across the ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and infrared spectrums. This means more observations, more pixels per image, and the capability to observe more types of gases.

“Observations of atmospheric composition – as well as of the land surface, oceans, clouds, and the cryosphere – enable a more systematic understanding of what is happening and will hopefully motivate policies that can work towards mitigating the alarming impacts we are seeing at a global level due to the climate crisis.”

Read the full article in Meteorological Technology International

Main image credit: NASA


Adam Gristwood