Paris, March 19 : Scientists have for the first time detected regionally elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide from manmade emissions using data obtained from the SCIAMACHY instrument aboard ESA's (European Space Agency) Envisat environmental satellite.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions occur naturally as well as being created through human activities, like the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) for power generation, industry and traffic.
In fact, more than 30 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere annually by these activities.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this increase is predicted to result in a warmer climate with rising sea levels and an increase of extreme weather conditions.
Predicting future atmospheric CO2 levels requires an increase in our understanding of carbon fluxes.
Now, Dr Michael Buchwitz from the Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP) at the University of Bremen in Germany and his colleagues detected the relatively weak atmospheric CO2 signal arising from regional 'anthropogenic', or manmade, CO2 emissions over Europe by processing and analysing SCIAMACHY data from 2003 to 2005.
The findings show an extended plume over Europe's most populated area, the region from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Frankfurt, Germany.
"The natural CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface are typically much larger than the CO2 fluxes arising from manmade CO2 emissions, making the detection of regional anthropogenic CO2 emission signals quite difficult," explained Buchwitz.
"That we are able to detect regionally elevated CO2 over Europe shows the high quality of the SCIAMACHY CO2 measurements," he added.
But, according to Buchwitz, further analysis is required in order to draw quantitative conclusions in terms of CO2 emissions.
"We verified that the CO2 spatial pattern that we measure correlates well with current CO2 emission databases and population density, but more studies are needed before definitive quantitative conclusions concerning CO2 emissions can be drawn," he said.
By better understanding all of the parameters involved in the carbon cycle, scientists can better predict climate change as well as better monitor international treaties aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as the Kyoto Protocol which addresses the reduction of six greenhouse gases.