Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
Research article
11 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 11 Apr 2014

Performance of a geostationary mission, geoCARB, to measure CO2, CH4 and CO column-averaged concentrations

I. N. Polonsky, D. M. O'Brien, J. B. Kumer, C. W. O'Dell, and the geoCARB Team

Abstract. GeoCARB is a proposed instrument to measure column averaged concentrations of CO2, CH4 and CO from geostationary orbit using reflected sunlight in near-infrared absorption bands of the gases. The scanning options, spectral channels and noise characteristics of geoCARB and two descope options are described. The accuracy of concentrations from geoCARB data is investigated using end-to-end retrievals; spectra at the top of the atmosphere in the geoCARB bands are simulated with realistic trace gas profiles, meteorology, aerosol, cloud and surface properties, and then the concentrations of CO2, CH4 and CO are estimated from the spectra after addition of noise characteristic of geoCARB. The sensitivity of the algorithm to aerosol, the prior distributions assumed for the gases and the meteorology are investigated. The contiguous spatial sampling and fine temporal resolution of geoCARB open the possibility of monitoring localised sources such as power plants. Simulations of emissions from a power plant with a Gaussian plume are conducted to assess the accuracy with which the emission strength may be recovered from geoCARB spectra. Scenarios for "clean" and "dirty" power plants are examined. It is found that a reliable estimate of the emission rate is possible, especially for power plants that have particulate filters, by averaging emission rates estimated from multiple snapshots of the CO2 field surrounding the plant. The result holds even in the presence of partial cloud cover.