Precise measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are key to figuring out how to counter the planet-warming greenhouse gas.
The Daily Press reports that engineers at NASA Langley Research Center say they have cracked the world’s first double-pulsed laser system that takes measurements of CO2 to a new level — a system that can extract data day or night, rain or shine, all over the planet from an airborne platform with the highest degree of accuracy.
By measuring the infinitesimal difference in return between the two pulses, called the differential absorption LIDAR technique, the engineers can determine the amount of carbon dioxide in the air column. Carbon dioxide absorbs laser light, so the higher the CO2 concentration, the smaller the return.
“We have achieved all the things which we ever even dreamed about, so we are giddy,” said Upendra Singh, associate director of the center’s engineering directorate. “And we have so much quality data that I’ve never seen this kind of data, and I’ve been in LIDAR for 30 years.”