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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  30 Jun 2020

30 Jun 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Quantifying CO2 emissions of a city with the Copernicus Anthropogenic CO2 Monitoring satellite mission

Gerrit Kuhlmann1, Dominik Brunner1, Grégoire Broquet2, and Yasjka Meijer3 Gerrit Kuhlmann et al.
  • 1Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 2Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 3European Space Agency (ESA), ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands

Abstract. We investigate the potential of the Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Monitoring (CO2M) mission, a proposed constellation of CO2 imaging satellites, to estimate the CO2 emissions of a city on the example of Berlin, the capital of Germany. On average, Berlin emits about 20 Mt CO2 yr−1 during satellite overpass (11:30 local time). The study uses synthetic satellite observations of a constellation of up to six satellites generated from one year of high-resolution atmospheric transport simulations. The emissions were estimated by (1) an analytical atmospheric inversion applied to the plume of Berlin simulated by the same model that was used to generate the synthetic observations, and (2) a mass-balance approach that estimates the CO2 flux through multiple cross-sections of the city plume detected by a plume detection algorithm. The plume was either detected from CO2 observations alone or from additional nitrogen dioxide (NO2) observations on the same platform. The two approaches span the range between the optimistic assumption of a perfect transport model that provides an accurate prediction of plume location and CO2 background, and the pessimistic assumption that plume location and background can only be determined reliably from the satellite observations. Often unfavorable meteorological conditions allowed to successfully apply the analytical inversion to only 11 out of 61 overpasses per satellite per year on average. From a single overpass, the instantaneous emissions of Berlin could be estimated with an average precision of 3.0 to 4.2 Mt yr−1 (15–21 % of emissions during overpass) depending on the assumed instrument noise ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 ppm. Applying the mass balance approach required the detection of a sufficiently large plume, which on average was only possible on 3 overpasses per satellite per year when using CO2 observations for plume detection. This number doubled to 6 estimates when the plumes were detected from NO2 observations due to the better signal-to-noise ratio and lower sensitivity to clouds of the measurements. Compared to the analytical inversion, the mass balance approach had a lower precision ranging from 8.1 to 10.7 Mt yr−1 (40–53 %), because it is affected by additional uncertainties introduced by the estimation of the location of the plume, the CO2 background field, and the wind speed within the plume. These uncertainties also resulted in systematic biases, especially without the NO2 observations. An additional source of bias were non-separable fluxes from outside of Berlin. Annual emissions were estimated by fitting a low-order periodic spline to the individual estimates to account for the temporal variability of the emissions. The analytical inversion was able to estimate annual emissions with an accuracy of < 1.1 Mt yr−1 (< 6 %) even with only one satellite. In contrast, at least two satellites were necessary for the mass-balance approach to have a sufficiently large number of estimates distributed over the year to robustly fit a spline, but even then the accuracy was low (> 8 Mt yr−1 (> 40 %)) when using the CO2 observations alone. When using the NO2 observations to detect the plume, the accuracy could be greatly improved to 22 % and 13 % with two and three satellites, respectively. Using the complementary information provided by the CO2 and NO2 observations on the CO2M mission, it should be possible to quantify annual emissions of a city like Berlin with an accuracy of about 10 to 20 %, even in the pessimistic case that plume location and CO2 background have to be determined from the observations alone. This requires, however, that the temporal coverage of the constellation is sufficiently high to resolve the temporal variability of emissions.

Gerrit Kuhlmann et al.

Interactive discussion

Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Gerrit Kuhlmann et al.

Gerrit Kuhlmann et al.


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Latest update: 21 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The European CO2M mission is a proposed constellation of CO2 imaging satellites expected to monitor CO2 emissions of large cities. Using synthetic observations, we show that a constellation of two or more satellites should be able to quantify Berlin's annual emissions with 10–20 % accuracy, even when considering atmospheric transport model errors. We therefore expect that CO2M will make an important contribution to the monitoring and verification of CO2 emissions from cities worldwide.
The European CO2M mission is a proposed constellation of CO2 imaging satellites expected to...