Articles | Volume 13, issue 5
Research article
04 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 04 Mar 2013

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide source areas observed from space: assessment of regional enhancements and trends

O. Schneising, J. Heymann, M. Buchwitz, M. Reuter, H. Bovensmann, and J. P. Burrows

Abstract. Urban areas, which are home to the majority of today's world population, are responsible for more than two-thirds of the global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Given the ongoing demographic growth and rising energy consumption in metropolitan regions particularly in the developing world, urban-based emissions are expected to further increase in the future. As a consequence, monitoring and independent verification of reported anthropogenic emissions is becoming more and more important.

It is demonstrated using SCIAMACHY nadir measurements that anthropogenic CO2 emissions can be detected from space and that emission trends might be tracked using satellite observations. This is promising with regard to future satellite missions with high spatial resolution and wide swath imaging capability aiming at constraining anthropogenic emissions down to the point-source scale.

By subtracting retrieved background values from those retrieved over urban areas we find significant CO2 enhancements for several anthropogenic source regions, namely 1.3 ± 0.7 ppm for the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region and the Benelux, 1.1 ± 0.5 ppm for the East Coast of the United States, and 2.4 ± 0.9 ppm for the Yangtze River Delta. The order of magnitude of the enhancements is in agreement with what is expected for anthropogenic CO2 signals. The larger standard deviation of the retrieved Yangtze River Delta enhancement is due to a distinct positive trend of 0.3 ± 0.2 ppm yr−1, which is quantitatively consistent with anthropogenic emissions from the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) in terms of percentual increase per year.

Potential contributions to the retrieved CO2 enhancement by several error sources, e.g. aerosols, albedo, and residual biospheric signals due to heterogeneous seasonal sampling, are discussed and can be ruled out to a large extent.

Final-revised paper