Giant smoker. Emissions from a coal-fired power plant in the center of Europe were first filmed from space (video)

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Giant oil lamp. Coal emissions power plants in central Europe captured from space for the first time (video)

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The Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) spacecraft was launched back in 2014, and its sister instrument, OCO-3, was installed on the International Space Station in 2019. Both devices were designed to map the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere at the regional and continental levels, writes Space.

However, for the first time, a team of researchers led by Ray Nassar was able to use satellite measurements to record in detail the peaks and troughs of the emission intensity of one specific object. During the study, scientists focused on studying fluctuations in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the largest coal-fired power plant in Europe, which is located in Poland – the Belchatow power plant.

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According to an OCO-3 mission scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the study is the first of its kind and was a “pleasant surprise” for scientists.

Note that earlier scientists have already mastered the use of satellites to track emissions of the more powerful greenhouse gas methane. However, now they have also been able to use satellites to detect individual anthropogenic sources of more abundant carbon dioxide – until now this was not possible due to the high concentration of gas in the Earth's atmosphere.

The object of the new study was the Belchatow coal-fired power plant, commissioned in 1988. It is known that it is capable of generating up to a little more than 5 thousand megawatts of electricity and has already emitted about 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere. Earlier, the Polish government committed itself to transfer the coal plant to more environmentally friendly resources by 2036.

Scientists examined satellite data from 2017-2022 and found changes in carbon dioxide levels that correspond to fluctuations in power generation (taking into account unit outages and maintenance).

Nassara believes such studies will allow get a more detailed picture of carbon emissions, and can later be used to track the effectiveness of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Scientists are confident that this approach can be applied to power plants around the world, which will greatly facilitate the work in the fight against climate.

Researchers note that measuring emissions from space, in fact, provides scientists with a tool to accurately emission source monitoring. Note that the European Space Agency (ESA) is currently working on the creation of a whole team of “satellites” that will measure carbon dioxide emissions from various industrial sources. The mission is planned to be launched in 2025-2026.