Measuring global sulfur dioxide emissions with satellite sensors

Oct 08, 2013

Atmospheric sulfur dioxide affects the weather by enhancing cloud formation, and long-term shifts in emissions can change the climate by increasing the planetary albedo. Sulfur dioxide emissions are the basis for acid rain, and the gas itself can cause respiratory problems. Despite its importance, the difficulties associated with accurately measuring sulfur dioxide mean that rates of emissions are generally not well understood. For readings made using satellite-borne spectrometers, the signal of sulfur dioxide is often swamped by that of ozone, which absorbs radiation at similar wavelengths. Using data filtering and analysis techniques, Fioletov et al. find that observations from three different satellites are consistent and could be used to detect large sources of sulfur dioxide emissions.

Satellites have previously been used to track emissions from individual point sources, such as volcanoes or large power plants. Global assessments have proven to be more elusive. By comparing observations from ultraviolet spectrometers carried by three different satellites, the authors identified 30 strong sources of , ranging from smelters and oil refineries to factories, volcanoes, and power plants. With observations from 2004 to 2010, the authors calculated trends in emissions rates at these sites.

The development of an accurate method to remotely detect concentrations is important because otherwise scientists are reliant on reported rates, which aren't always accurately disclosed.

Explore further: Image: Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica, as seen by ESA's Proba-1

More information: Application of OMI, SCIAMACHY, and GOME-2 satellite SO2 retrievals for detection of large emission sources , Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50826, 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrd.50826/abstract

Related Stories

Volcanoes cause climate gas concentrations to vary

May 22, 2013

Trace gases and aerosols are major factors influencing the climate. With the help of highly complex installations, such as MIPAS on board of the ENVISAT satellite, researchers try to better understand the ...

Carnival to cut pollution from cruise ships

Sep 06, 2013

The world's largest cruise ship company will adopt technology from power plants and automobiles to reduce air pollution from the massive diesel engines powering its ships.

Recommended for you

Can lightning strike an indoor pool?

5 hours ago

Two swimming pool weather policies have surprised me in recent years. One was when I showed up to swim laps at an outdoor pool as it was beginning to drizzle. "Come on in," I was told; as long as there was no lightning, the ...

Image: Eruption of Wolf Volcano, Galapagos Islands

7 hours ago

In late May 2015, the highest volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted for the first time in 33 years. The explosive eruption at Wolf volcano on Isabela Island sent volcanic gases and ash roughly 15 kilometers ...

NASA sees new depression forms near Solomon Islands

22 hours ago

The Southern Pacific Ocean Tropical Cyclone Season just got an extension with the birth of a new tropical depression near the Solomon Islands. NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the new depression and saw ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.