Leicester scientists join new mission to observe carbon dioxide levels

Scientists from the University of Leicester and the National Centre for Earth Observation, which is led by Leicester's Professor John Remedios, are to join the science team for MicroCarb supporting the definition of the mission and the development of the data processing to obtain the concentrations of CO2 from the satellite and to determine corresponding geographical distributions of CO2 fluxes.

The MicroCarb satellite is a joint UK-French satellite mission and a groundbreaking new agreement to work together to tackle climate change.  The UK Space Agency’s Director of Growth, Catherine Mealing-Jones, and CNES President, Jean-Yves Le Gall, signed the MicroCarb cooperation agreement this morning (19 April) at the French Ambassador’s Residence in London, witnessed by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, and France’s Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann.

The new satellite mission will help scientists to track the exchange of carbon between the surface and the atmosphere, which is necessary to understand the response of the natural carbon pools to climate change and to help quantify human emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). MicroCarb will measure atmospheric CO2 within 0.3%, representing one of the most accurate measurements of atmospheric concentrations from space to date.  MicroCarb also includes an innovative city measurement mode that will resolve variations of atmospheric CO2 over urban areas that can be related to their greenhouse gas emissions.

Professors Hartmut Bösch and Paul Palmer from NCEO at the Universities of Leicester and Edinburgh will represent the UK on the MicroCarb science team.

MicroCarb is the first European mission intended to characterise greenhouse gas fluxes on Earth’s surface and gauge how much carbon is being absorbed by oceans and forests, the main sinks on the planet. It will enable the UK Space Agency and CNES to pave the way for a longer term operational system in response to the Paris Agreement.

Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, said: “UK collaboration with France on MicroCarb provides an excellent platform to demonstrate cutting-edge British science, our commitment to climate policy, and a productive relationship with a key European partner.

“The UK space sector is alive with talent and opportunity and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are ensuring the UK remains a vital contributor to international space research.”