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The OCO-2 team is currently developing techniques that will verify the observations of column averaged dry air mole fraction (Xco2) acquired from space. Ground-based Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometers (FTIRs) will acquire precise and accurate measurements of Xco2 from a variety of locations. Very precise laboratory instruments will provide detailed characteristics of spectrographic lines of O2 and CO2 to the precision required for proper interpretation of the acquired atmospheric spectral measurements. In addition, the OCO-2 project will support the acquisition of in situ observations of the CO2 mixing ratio from flasks, tall towers, and aircraft. Research scientists will employ all of these sources of information to calibrate, verify and improve the accuracy of the OCO-2 space-borne measurements of Xco2.

For further information, see:
1) OCO-2 Science Validation Plan Science Validation Plan (PDF, 1.59 MB)
2) OCO-2 Spectroscopic Needs Document OCO-2 Spectroscopic Needs (PDF, 1.25 MB)

In situ Observations
In situ CO2 measured from surface sites and aircraft will play a vital role in the validation of Xco2 measured from space. Among the merits of these observations are:

  • the ability to obtain high absolute accuracy
  • the ability to profile vertical variability from aircraft
  • the ability to measure horizontal variability from aircraft
  • the ability to capture sampling biases over long time periods
  • an insensitivity to the effects of airborne aerosols

To ensure their applicability for the validation of OCO-2 data, the ground-based FTIR observations will measure the same absorption bands at a much higher spectral resolution and record measurements with very similar vertical sensitivity.

Laboratory Spectroscopy
Improved measurements of the positions, the strengths, the widths, and the shapes of the O2 and CO2 spectral lines are essential both to interpret the data collected by the OCO-2 instrument as well as to meet mission precision requirements. The current state-of-the-art absolute accuracy of CO2 and O2 intensities is 1% or better. The OCO-2 instrument will require accuracies of 0.2% or better.
Members of the OCO-2 science team will record high quality spectra of O2 and CO2 using the 1-m Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS) from the McMath-Pierce solar telescope facility at the summit of Kitt Peak in Arizona. OCO-2 science team members will incorporate the following data into their investigation in order to retrieve the required CO2 and O2 spectral line information at Kitt Peak:

  • accurate knowledge of gas conditions from mass-spectrometry calibrated CO2 samples,
  • accurate pressure and temperature measurements,
  • a large number of spectra under a range of measurement conditions,
  • high signal-to-noise ratio spectra through use of linear detectors and long integration times, and
  • retrieval procedures that use accurate instrument models and detailed theories based on molecular physics.


Aircraft taking measurements

Ground based measurements

Ground based measurements

Laboratory Spectroscopy

Laboratory Spectroscopy