NASA Satellite:Highest Levels Of CO2 In Southern Hemisphere

A new NASA satellite finds the highest levels of atmospheric CO2 in the Southern Hemisphere. One would have expected the highest levels over the Northern Hemisphere where the highest concentration of fossil fuel use occurs. This result is the first publication of the satellite’s measurements so it may be an anomaly.

NASA provided the following “Average CO2 Concentration Oct 1 to Nov. 11, 2014” chart:

OCO-2image2Note the scale on the bottom of the chart, that ranges from 387 to 402.5 ppm atmospheric CO2. As you can see the more red the coloring on the chart the higher the CO2 level. Roughly the red begins about 400 ppm. The reddest areas are over South America, Africa, Indonesia, China, the Northern Pacific East of Japan and the Southern Pacific East of Australia.

NASA explains this as follows:

“Preliminary analysis shows these signals are largely driven by the seasonal burning of savannas and forests,” said OCO-2 Deputy Project Scientist Annmarie Eldering, of JPL. The team is comparing these measurements with data from other satellites to clarify how much of the observed concentration is likely due to biomass burning.”

The satellite is dedicated to studying atmospheric CO2 from space.   It is called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.   NASA describes the program as follows:

“OCO-2 is an exploratory science mission designed to collect space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks (fluxes) on regional scales (≥1000km). OCO-2 will also be able to quantify CO2 variability over the seasonal cycles year after year. This mission will also validate a space-based measurement approach and analysis concept that could be used for future systematic CO2 monitoring missions.”

Seasonal burning of the forests and savannas are an annual practice in South America and Africa. That could explain the big blooms of red in those areas. The take on the seasonal burning is that the CO2 created by the burning is recaptured when the burned areas create new forests and savannas.   China is probably easily explainable as it is said to have the largest annual man-made emissions of CO2.

Looking at the Mauna Loa monthly CO2 readings, the atmospheric CO2 level rises when the Northern Hemisphere is cooling— it is believed that this is caused by natural CO2 emissions going up into the atmosphere because the CO2 up-take by plants is decreasing dramatically. The chart below shows, in red, the monthly atmospheric CO2 readings and the smoothed average in black.


Perhaps the swing might actually be caused by the degassing of CO2 as the     Southern Oceans warm plus the burning sourced CO2 being much greater than previously believed. But this is idle speculation.

Since I began organizing this posting, a new posting on WattsUpWithThat has some thoughts about underwater volcanoes, which seems is worth considering. The title of the post is NASA’s new Orbiting Carbon Observatory  ( shows potential tectonically-induced CO2 input from the ocean?” by Martin Hovland, Geophysiscist and Professor Emeritus, Center for Geobiology, University of Bergen, Norway.

Hovland says:

” The newly released satellite OCO2-data indicates that there is CO2 input in tectonically active oceanic areas. This becomes evident by pairing seafloor topography and tectonic data with the recently published OCO2-results. Thus, in the released OCO2 dataset, showing the average atmospheric concentration of CO2 over a period of about 6 weeks late in 2014, there are three curious, relatively week, but distinct CO2-hotspots over oceanic regions:

1) The Timor CO2-hotspot

2) the Fiji CO2-hotspot, and

3) the Emperor CO2-hotspot”

He marks-up the NASA chart to show the location of the hotspots listed above.


If you link to his posting you will find additional graphics that show the location of lines of undersea volcanoes that have resulted from tectonic activity. His premise seems plausible—heat and CO2 are undoubtedly the products of these volcanoes.   His conjecture now seemingly proven indicates a need for more measurements to quantify the impact on atmospheric CO2 and ocean heat.

My take-away: With the possible exception of China, the sources of CO2 as indicated by the first measurements are all primarily natural.







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