As a step toward taking active global measurements from space, ITT Exelis and NASA Langley Research Center completed a flight campaign that calculated carbon dioxide over various surfaces and conditions.
Using a NASA DC-8 aircraft and an Exelis instrument called the Multifunctional Fiber Laser LIDAR, the team gathered data from high altitudes over fresh and aged snow surfaces, ocean surfaces in high winds, tall coastal and forest conditions, and thin cirrus clouds.
Current passive instruments for determining CO2 from space cannot take measurements at night, at high latitudes where major cities are located, or through clouds. The active LIDAR system takes more accurate measurements in the lower atmosphere, where increases and decreases in carbon dioxide take place more often.
The company’s LIDAR technology improves global mapping of carbon sources and sinks, thus enhancing climate models. The Exelis instrument is based on commercially viable fiber communications technology, which makes it lower cost than other approaches.
NASA Langley and Exelis are working on the next step in the evaluation process, which is to move the measurement concept to a high-altitude, unmanned aerial vehicle.