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Viewing the Carbon Cycle from Space

UCL Geography plans for the 2021 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Viewing the Carbon Cycle from Space

In early July the Royal Society began to announce the exhibitors for the #SummerScience 2021 Exhibition, inevitably postponed from 2020. The Exhibition usually runs in early July every year and is visited by thousands of members of the public across all ages, particularly from secondary schools.

One team of exhibitors, including UCL Geography’s Professor Mat Disney, will look at the world of atmospheric CO2 in an exhibit called Our Breathing Earth: New views of the carbon cycle from space.

A joint venture between Mat, Professor Paul Palmer (University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Shubha Sathyendranath (Plymouth Marine Laboratory), it will showcase work, in part with the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, measuring and understanding the global carbon cycle using satellite, ground-based and marine observations.

It will show how satellites are providing a new and highly-detailed view of atmospheric greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane, enabling the tracking of pollution, the quantification of forest carbon, and recording the dynamics of ocean carbon.

A team from UCL Geography, including Mat, Dr Phil Wilkes, Professor Philip Lewis and others, will be using VR demos of their 3D forest measurements to show how ground-based measurements underpin the satellite observations.

Having been previously involved a couple of times Mat says:

"The exhibition is always incredibly rewarding - you get to spend all week talking about your science to (mostly!) interested and often very knowledgeable people. I'm always amazed how many questions you get that might seem off-the-wall or even naive, but can really make you think about your work in a different way."

The movie below is a terrestrial lidar scan that Mat, Phil and Mat's PhD student Wanxin Yang captured on the Mall just outside the Royal Society. Mat's recent work with Phil and others has shown how this kind of measurement can be turned into new and improved estimates of forest carbon in the tropics, but also in so-called urban forests:



Our Breathing Earth, 2021