TOKYO Jan 23 Japan launched a satellite on
Friday to monitor greenhouse gases around the world in the hope
that the data it gathers will help global efforts to combat
The satellite, called "Ibuki" or "vitality" in Japanese, will
enable scientists to measure densities of carbon dioxide and
methane from 56,000 locations on the Earth's surface, including
the atmosphere over open seas.
That would compare with just 282 land-based observation sites
as of last October, mostly of which are in the United States,
Europe and other industrialised regions, the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency has said.
Japanese officials hope the data will add credence to
existing research on greenhouse gases, including reports by the
U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of
hundreds of scientists.
"It would contribute to raising certainties in IPCC research
that greenhouse gases are increasing," said Yasushi Tadami,
deputy director of research and information at the Environment
Ministry's global environment bureau.
"It will also advance research on the mechanism of carbon
Equipped with two sensors, the satellite will track infrared
rays from the Earth, which will help calculate the densities of
carbon dioxide and methane because these two greenhouse gases
absorb the rays at certain wavelengths.
NASA is sponsoring its own Orbiting Carbon Observatory to be
launched this year to collect measurements on carbon dioxide in
the Earth's atmosphere.
Both satellites come as about 190 countries try to craft a
broader climate treaty by December to replace the Kyoto Protocol
that binds wealthy nations to emissions targets between 2008 and
Data on greenhouse gas densities may not be ready for those
talks by the end of the year, but Tadami hoped the findings are
nevertheless useful in mapping future climate policies.
"The satellite will be in orbit for five years and we hope
that during that time, the data leads to more detailed climate
policies," he said.
A top U.N. climate official said last week that anything to
improve global monitoring systems of greenhouse gases would be
helpful in finding ways to curb and adapt to global warming.
"Being able to measure what is happening is incredibly
important to developing a robust international climate change
response," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change
Secretariat, told Reuters last week.
"You wouldn't expect it in this modern day and age, but
actually our ability to monitor greenhouse gas emissions is still
relatively weak -- weak in industrialised countries but even
weaker in many developing countries."
(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)