OBSERVING THE EARTH FROM NEAR AND FAR

EOS satellites monitor climate from space

EOS satellites monitor climate from space

The  Earth Observing System (EOS), launched in 1999, uses a series of polar-orbiting satellites to study clouds, the oceans, atmospheric chemistry, as well as water and ecosystem processes and land masses.  Dr. Steve Running, of the University of Montana wrote about why NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) mission was so important at its inception on December 16, 1999.  He wrote:  “Dec 16, 1999, maybe fittingly at the end of this millennium, we will launch the first satellite designed to fulfill this vision. The one line summary of the purpose of EOS is to find out “Is the current human occupancy and activity of planet Earth sustainable?.

In the ten years since the first EOS satellite was launched, things have changed a great deal.  In a recent essay, Dr. Running wrote:  “In the decade of EOS observations, fossil fuel emissions have risen from 6.7 to 8.7 petagrams per year. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has gone from 363 to 386 parts per million, actually exceeding the”worst-case” (most fossil-fuel intensive) emission scenario used for climate simulations for the most recent IPCC report. As illogical as it sounds, humanity has actually accelerated its approach to the impending climate cliff in this last decade.”

What started off as a scientific endeavor, Dr. Running writes, is now a geopolitical one: global carbon monitoring now has economic and legal dimensions.

Next time: the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, starts in six weeks. In the run-up to the conference, The Hot Zone will get up close and personal on the geopolitics of climate change.

 

by Erica Rex