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Multi-scale emission monitoring

Atmosphere  |  24 November, 2020  |  Reading time: 3 minutes

The measurement, analysis and understanding of greenhouse gas concentrations and emissions are needed at a range of scales, depending on the needs of the end user. Wide area monitoring of atmospheric concentrations of various greenhouse gases at country and continent scale helps to inform on big picture trends.

Airbus recognises that climate change is a critical challenge facing the Earth, and is engaged in establishing solutions to help monitor, manage and mitigate the impact of climate change.


An enhanced asset level emission monitoring system is vital as it improves the accuracy of the global-scale emission observation. However, it is challenging due to the limited availability of high-resolution data. For instance, the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-5P (S-5P) satellite offers data with a resolution of 7 km x 7 km, but this might not be sufficient for monitoring emission from an individual ship on the move with dimensions far smaller than this. Therefore, solutions with higher spatial and temporal resolutions are needed.

Asset level monitoring and investigation on activities such as shipping, airports, mining and refineries, can help to demine more specific sources of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Airbus is applying data from the S-5P TROPOMI sensor in conjunction with high-resolution satellite imagery (e.g. Vision-1) to enhance monitoring of methane from refineries.

Additionally, Airbus is working on the development of an enhanced greenhouse gas monitoring system at local and regional scales by integrating multiple data sources from S-5P, Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, and ESA’s Climate Change Initiative data products e.g. Land Surface Temperature.

Figure 1: Sentinel-5 Precursor, launched in October 2017, monitors Earth’s atmosphere, with high spatial and temporal resolution. The satellite detects pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, methane, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and aerosols. The mission objective is to supply this high quality and high resolution data for air quality, ozone & UV radiation and climate monitoring & forecasting. Credit: ESA

UK Expertise

Airbus’ Intelligence team in the UK has a 30+ year heritage in managing petabytes of Earth Observation (EO) data from multiple satellite missions on behalf of ESA, UKSA and commercial customers. Airbus uses this expertise in EO data management and processing, combined with an active engagement in climate analytics applications to generate insights for a range of end users.

For instance, Airbus carried out an analysis of S-5P data to assess the impact of the first coronavirus lockdown on air quality over the UK. The analysis was based on a comparison of NO2 emission concentrations in May 2019, May 2020, and June 2020. An emission concentration reduction of 20-50% was identified when comparing concentrations in May 2019 and May 2020. The emission concentrations in June 2020 illustrated a jump in NO2 around the major urban centres like London and Manchester after national lockdown measures were eased. These monitoring results were shared with the BBC and provided in a briefing to UK MPs to help support decision making through the coronavirus pandemic.

Figure 2: Analysis of Sentinel 5P data revealed a 20-50% reduction in concentrations during the first UK National lockdown and comparison between May and June this year reveals rising levels of nitrogen dioxide in the large cities. © ESA/ATG medialab