Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is a by-product of incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels such as coal, wood, and natural gas. While it is best known for the deadly effects it can have in homes with faulty ventilation or appliances, it also impacts Earth’s atmosphere. Global CO concentrations vary through activities such as seasonal agricultural burning as well as from natural events such as wildfires and volcanic eruptions. Higher atmospheric CO concentrations can affect oxygen transport in the blood and can increase levels of ground-based ozone, which also can lead to health problems.
Knowledge about global CO concentrations increased tremendously with the launch of the Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) sensor aboard NASA’s Terra Earth observing satellite in 1999. Since becoming operational in 2000, MOPITT has provided an invaluable record of daily, monthly, and annual global CO concentrations and movement. The MOPITT Retrieved CO (Thermal Infrared Radiances) product is now available in near real-time (NRT) through NASA's Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) system.
The MOPITT CO product is generally available through LANCE within 180 minutes of the sensor overflight. While MOPITT NRT data do not have the extensive processing necessary for use in scientific research, their rapid availability make them a vital resource for forecasting air quality and atmospheric chemistry.
The MOPITT instrument, which was funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and built by a consortium of Canadian companies, is one of five instruments aboard NASA’s Terra Earth observing satellite. MOPITT measures concentrations of CO in the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere and extends from ground level to 9-16 km (5.5-10 miles) above the surface. CO remains in the troposphere for about a month, according to NASA, which means it persists long enough to be transported long distances by high altitude winds, but not long enough to mix evenly throughout the atmosphere. Likewise, CO does not accumulate in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide (CO2). MOPITT has a sensor swath of 640 km (almost 400 miles) and can measure CO concentrations in 5 km (about 3 mile) layers down a vertical atmospheric column. Each MOPITT pxel is about 22 km (about 13.7 miles) square. Complete global coverage is provided every three days.
LANCE is part of NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), and distributes NRT data products from almost a dozen satellite-borne instruments. EOSDIS provides end-to-end capabilities for managing NASA’s Earth science data. These data represent some of the most complex and diverse Earth science data sets on the planet from satellites, aircraft, field measurements, and numerous other EOSDIS programs. The primary services provided by EOSDIS are data archive, management, and distribution; information management; product generation; and user support services. These services are managed by NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) Project.
Terra is NASA’s flagship Earth observing satellite. Data from Terra’s five instruments are incorporated into more than 80 standard data products for use in scientific research. These standard products are archived and disseminated through several EOSDIS discipline-specific Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs). Originally designed to last six years, Terra is still going strong in 2017.
To download MOPITT NRT data or for more information about LANCE, visit the LANCE page.