Nav: Home

Commercial airliners reveal three-dimensional distribution of atmospheric CO2 over Asia Pacific

November 06, 2018

The National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan, and Meteorological Research Institute (MRI), Japan have been conducting an atmospheric measurement project called CONTRAIL (Comprehensive Observation Network for Trace gases by Airliner). This is the world's first program that measures atmospheric CO2 concentrations continuously on board passenger aircraft. Japan Airlines' (JAL) aircraft regularly carry a Continuous CO2 Measuring Equipment (CME), which measures atmospheric CO2 concentrations continuously from take-off to touch down along the flight track. Since the project started in 2005, over 7 millions of CO2 data from over 12 thousands of flights have been collected worldwide, which enabled us to explore detailed spatiotemporal variations of atmospheric CO2 over Asia Pacific, the region that has been only sparsely monitored for CO2 concentration.

The study was published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics on October 17, 2018.

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is increasing and actions for climate change need accurate knowledge of the global carbon cycle. Asia has become increasingly important in the global carbon budget by rapidly growing economy. There are still large uncertainties in the estimates of CO2 emissions from human-related sectors and emissions and uptakes by natural vegetation in Asia. Atmospheric measurements have been useful information since abundance and gradient of CO2 in the air are essentially determined by spatiotemporal distributions and intensities of emissions and uptakes and by atmospheric transport. It has been however a challenge to establish a well-facilitated monitoring network across Asia. Commercial airliner is one practical solution, since it provides regular and long-term opportunities of flying measurements over different countries worldwide.

This study analysed 10 years of the CONTRAIL CO2 measurement data taken over Asia Pacific. From ground-based global atmospheric monitoring networks, it is now well known that atmospheric CO2 undergoes clear seasonal variation with summertime depletion and springtime elevation (in the Northern Hemisphere) due to biospheric activity (photosynthesis and respiration), and thus northern biosphere is well recognized as a driver of seasonal cycles of atmospheric CO2. The CONTRAIL data revealed clear seasonality of CO2 over Asia that varies with latitude, longitude and altitude. In particular, we observed distinct depletion of CO2 concentration over South Asia to Southeast Asia in August to September (Figure 2). The low CO2 area was found to be confined within the Asian summer monsoon anticyclone--persistent anticyclonic circulation in upper layers of the atmosphere (above 10 km altitude) associated with the seasonally varying monsoon regime--and to be imprinted by strong CO2 uptake by vegetation in South Asia. The Asian summer monsoon meteorology efficiently conveys signals from South Asian ground vegetation upward and it propagates eventually out to the Pacific after being trapped within the anticyclone. Seasonal evolutions of CO2 uptakes in South Asia and of dynamical development and decay of the Asian summer monsoon anticyclone have remarkable impact in distributing atmospheric CO2 over Asia and to the Pacific.

The CONTRAIL commercial airliner measurements provide high-frequency CO2 data over regions under-sampled by the current world atmospheric monitoring networks. The CONTRAIL datasets will complement measurements at other observational platforms (ground stations and satellites) and will be of increasing help to better understand carbon cycles and atmospheric transport of trace gases important in climate change and air pollution.
Published article:

Umezawa, T., H. Matsueda, Y. Sawa, Y. Niwa, T. Machida and L. Zhou (2018), Seasonal evaluation of tropospheric CO2 over the Asia-Pacific region observed by the CONTRAIL commercial airliner measurements, Atmos. Chem. Phys.,

Institute on the Environment

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at