A consortium headed by the California state, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as Planet unveiled plans for a network of hyperspectral satellites to the pinpoint, measure, and map methane as well as carbon dioxide point sources on 15 April. Carbon Mapper, which is a public-private collaboration aimed at offering knowledge to better limit greenhouse gas pollution, has the constellation as one of its components.

Since the year 2016, when then-Governor Jerry Brown responded to the Trump Administration’s challenge to NASA climate science by announcing, “California will deploy its damn satellites,” California government departments, such as the state’s Air Resources Board, have been setting the foundation for Carbon Mapper. The initiative to combine hyperspectral sensors built at JPL with satellites the scale of Planet SkySats is being supported by partners such as Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the High Tide Foundation, as well as the non-profit RMI.

In a release, California Governor Gavin Newsom stated, “These home-developed satellites are revolutionary.”  “They offer California a strong, cutting-edge weapon to help us reduce emissions of super-pollutant methane – both domestically and globally. That’s the sort of dynamic, forward-thinking approach we need right now to solve climate change’s existential catastrophe.”

The first dual Carbon Mapper satellites, set to deploy in 2023, will track 80% of the world’s primary methane sources as well as big carbon dioxide emitters. According to Shanti Rao, the JPL Carbon Mapper constellation architect, a broader constellation will begin making daily measurements of greenhouse gas sources in the year 2025. “Carbon Mapper makes use of NASA’s best remote sensing technology,” Rao explained. “The sensor’s extremely high signal-to-noise ratio, as well as its unrivaled spatial and spectral uniformity, are critical for detecting methane plumes against the backdrop of Earth in a multitude of lighting conditions.”

Carbon Mapper is also intended to increase public perception and comprehension of greenhouse gas pollution. The California Air Resources Board is developing a public platform to exchange data collected by satellites as well as airborne sensors surveying large oil and gas fields. The Carbon Mapper constellation’s final scale has yet to be established.

Carbon Mapper is the newest satellite in a virtual constellation aimed at locating, measuring, and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions. The Copernicus Sentinel-5 satellite from Europe, NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, as well as Canada’s GHGSat constellation of methane-monitoring satellites, are also part of this constellation. As per a paper published in December at the virtual American Geophysical Union meeting, Carbon Mapper’s visible as well as infrared imaging spectrometers are equipped to offer data with a resolution of about 30 meters per pixel. Similar instruments built at JPL have detected methane from the airplanes and are planned to be used on future NASA missions to survey Earth’s moon and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

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