In May, a team of Goddard scientists will begin measuring greenhouse gases over the Mid-Atlantic region, an area chosen in part because it encompasses a range of vegetation, climate, and soil types that would influence the exchange of carbon dioxide and methane between the Earth and the atmosphere. The airborne campaign, called the Carbon Airborne Flux Experiment, or CARAFE, could help scientists better understand the exchange process, also known as flux, and improve computer models that predict Earth’s carbon sinks, natural or artificial areas that absorb carbon dioxide or methane. Scientists know how much carbon dioxide is produced annually through the burning of fossil fuels. They also know that about 44 percent of these emissions stay in the atmosphere and that the oceans and land sinks take up the rest. What they don’t know as well is what biological mechanisms currently control the uptake and storage in grasses, crops, and trees. They also don’t know whether these sinks will continue, considering ever-increasing emissions and changing climate. Currently, most flux data are gathered at towers or inferred from atmospheric carbon measurements, including those from satellites. Unfortunately, towers typically measure only the conditions occurring within their general vicinities.
From NASA Photo Credit John Vlahakis