Topic 3a - Part 1: GHGs and climate change – how the data helps us understand the past and the future

Our ability to measure and model greenhouse gases (GHGs) is pivotal in the monitoring and management of climate change. Collecting measurements of GHG emissions allows us to identify the increase in atmospheric constituents over time and to observe the daily and seasonal cycle of their concentration in the atmosphere. When we feed these observations into powerful models of the Earth system we can map their movement through the atmosphere and identify the source regions that GHG emissions originate from. This ability to trace emissions back to their origin is extremely helpful when creating policies that focus on mitigating climate change. We can also identify the processes that remove GHGs from the atmosphere - so called GHG ‘sinks’. This allows us to understand more about the lifetime of GHGs in the atmosphere and also their role in the carbon cycle.

One such satellite is Sentinel-5P.This satellite was launched in October 2017 and carries the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi). This instrument measures atmospheric trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and methane and aims to provide daily worldwide measurements for the next seven years. Copernicus’s future launches of Sentinel-5 and Sentinel-7 will further add to the data available on GHGs.

Featured Educators:

  • Dr Anna Agusti-Panareda

Don’t forget you can download the video, transcript and take any quizzes available with the links on the right.

Interactive Apps

Satellite tracking app - Topic 3a part 1

The satellites featured in this topic are as follows:


You can also use the drop-down menu in the app to view these satellites.