Japan and the US are using satellites to study global warming, the Economist reports. Last month Japan launched Ibuki—meaning breath—a satellite that will gather data from 56,000 points around the globe. America’s equivalent, the Orbital Carbon Observatory, will launch at the end of the month. Researchers hope to use data collected by the satellites to “audit” the Earth’s carbon cycle.
Ibuki has a spectrometer that can measure intensities of carbon and methane from the amount of reflected sunlight, and an instrument that measures the absorptive potential of clouds and other atmospheric gases. Scientists currently know the carbon output of power plants and other big man-made emitters, but don’t understand the mechanics of natural phenomena like a carbon-emitting wildfire or carbon-absorbing rainforest.