Quantifying sources and sinks of trace gases using space-borne measurements: current and future science

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We have been observing the Earth's upper atmosphere from space for several decades, but only over the past decade has the necessary technology begun to match our desire to observe surface air pollutants and climate-relevant trace gases in the lower troposphere, where we live and breathe. A new generation of Earth-observing satellites, capable of probing the lower troposphere, are already orbiting hundreds of kilometres above the Earth's surface with several more ready for launch or in the planning stages. Consequently, this is one of the most exciting times for the Earth system scientists who study the countless current-day physical, chemical and biological interactions between the Earth's land, ocean and atmosphere. First, I briefly review the theory behind measuring the atmosphere from space, and how these data can be used to infer surface sources and sinks of trace gases. I then present some of the science highlights associated with these data and how they can be used to improve fundamental understanding of the Earth's climate system. I conclude the paper by discussing the future role of satellite measurements of tropospheric trace gases in mitigating surface air pollution and carbon trading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4509-4528
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1885
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2008


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