NASA, EPA Unveil U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center at COP28

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 21: Former US Senator Bill Nelson, nominee to be administrator of NASA, attends a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on April 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Nelson was a senator representing Florida from 2001-2019. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

In a significant announcement during the 28th annual United Nations Climate Conference (COP28), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, along with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan and other U.S. government leaders, introduced the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center.

Highlighting the pivotal role of NASA’s data in addressing climate challenges, Nelson emphasized the necessity of on-the-ground changes to safeguard the climate. The establishment of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center, according to Nelson, reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making crucial data accessible to a diverse audience, ranging from scientists conducting data analyses to government officials shaping climate policy and the public seeking insights into the impact of climate change.

The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center emerges as a collaborative hub, fostering cooperation among various U.S. government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private sector partners. Offering a wealth of data, information, and computer models derived from sources such as the International Space Station, satellites, airborne missions, and ground stations, the center aims to provide comprehensive tools for understanding and addressing greenhouse gas-related challenges.

NASA, as the lead implementing agency, collaborated with key entities including the EPA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to curate a catalog of greenhouse gas datasets and analysis tools. The involvement of science experts from these federal agencies underscores the commitment to delivering reliable and relevant information.

Argyro Kavvada, the center program manager at NASA Headquarters, outlined a key goal of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center—to expedite the collaborative use of Earth science data. The focus is on ensuring that the right data reaches individuals capable of effectively managing and tracking greenhouse gas emissions.

The center’s data catalog encompasses a curated collection of datasets providing insights into greenhouse gas sources, sinks, emissions, and fluxes. Initial information on the center’s website is concentrated on three primary areas: estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, naturally occurring greenhouse gas sources and sinks on land and in the ocean, and the identification and quantification of large methane emission events utilizing aircraft and space-based data.

An illustrative dataset highlighted by the center is the methane gas information detected by NASA’s EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation) mission. Situated on the International Space Station, EMIT, an imaging spectrometer, captures visible and infrared wavelengths, enabling the measurement of methane releases on Earth.

Since its installation in 2022, EMIT uncovered evidence of “super emitters,” locations such as landfills and oil fields that emit higher-than-normal concentrations of methane due to biological waste decay or industrial activities. This provides a valuable way to precisely track high emissions and potentially identify artificial methane emitters that may be violating environmental regulations.

“The International Space Station and NASA’s more than two dozen satellites and instruments in space have long been invaluable in determining changes to the Earth’s climate. EMIT is proving to be a critical tool in our toolbox to measure this potent greenhouse gas – and stop it at the source,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release issued by NASA in October 2022.

The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center operates on open-source principles, making its datasets, algorithms, and supporting code fully accessible. This transparency allows for rigorous testing and scrutiny of the data and results by the broader scientific community and regulatory agencies like the EPA. The center also provides user support and an analysis hub, offering computational resources and an interactive interface for advanced data analysis.

NASA actively encourages feedback and ideas for the center’s evolution, positioning it as a dynamic and responsive resource. The center’s establishment aligns with broader government initiatives, as outlined in the recently released National Strategy to Advance an Integrated U.S. Greenhouse Gas Measurement, Monitoring, and Information System, demonstrating a comprehensive approach to enhancing greenhouse gas information for informed decision-making.