Using the data sent by SCIAMACHY sensor on ESA's Envisat satellite, scientists have ascertained the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere which they say has gone up by about 2 parts per million.
Dr Michael Buchwitz and Oliver Schneising from the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen in Germany processed the SCIAMACHY data from 2003-09, using a retrieval algorithm developed at the University of Bremen. O2 occurs naturally as well as being created through human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). According to the scientists, the increase is mainly a result of fossil fuel burning.
Significant gaps remain in the knowledge of CO2 sources, such as fires, volcanic activity and the respiration of living organisms, and its natural sinks, such as the land and ocean.
A good understanding of the sources and sinks of this important greenhouse gas is required for reliable climate prediction. The spatial pattern of the CO2 distribution in these individual maps contains information on its sources and sinks.
Buchwitz said: "The interpretation of the pattern is not trivial as the atmospheric lifetime of CO2 is very long (many years). The interpretation is further complicated by the sparse sampling of the SCIAMACHY data which results from the strict filtering applied to eliminate, for example, cloud contaminated observations."
The lower CO2 values at mid-to-high northern latitudes are weighted towards summer, where atmospheric CO2 is low due to uptake by the growing vegetation.
The analysis of this new CO2 data set is ongoing.