The global carbon cycle determines the amount of carbon dioxide and methane that accumulates in the atmosphere, increasing the Earth’s greenhouse effect. Understanding the global carbon cycle, and predicting its evolution under future climate scenarios is one of the biggest challenges facing science today. Almost half of the total anthropogenic CO2 emission accumulates in the atmosphere; the rest is absorbed by sinks in the ocean and terrestrial ecosystems. However, the global magnitude and the spatial and temporal distribution of these sinks are uncertain. This lack of knowledge is a leading contributor to the uncertainty in climate predictions due to the feedbacks between climate change and the carbon reservoirs. In particular, the spatial and temporal distribution of natural sinks over land and oceans remains elusive, which precludes better quantification of their underlying mechanisms and drivers.
Since the first Carbon from Space workshop in 2005 and the publication of the IGOS Integrated Global Carbon Observation (IGCO) Theme Report many new observations have been made e.g. GOSAT and model advances have been accomplished. These all contribute to the formation of an Integrated Global Carbon Observing system being coordinated through the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) with space observations provided by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) partner agencies. In response to this effort the European Space Agency is convening a workshop to identify the necessary steps to implement the Integrated Global Carbon Observing System. The workshop has as its objective the generation of a consolidated position paper on the IGCO for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. To achieve this, the workshop will have four dedicated sessions with keynote presentations, discussion and break-out groups:
1. Space-based greenhouse gas (GHG) observations: Current status, planned and requirements for the next- generation missions.
2. Current understanding of global carbon: the overall carbon budget, stocks and fluxes of carbon (on land, in the ocean and atmosphere) and vulnerability
3. Key surface observations required to understand surface-atmosphere exchanges: vegetation photosynthetic activity, ocean photosynthetic activity, wetlands, disturbance extent and timing, aerosols, radiation and clouds.
4. Modelling the carbon cycle: linking in situ and space based observations, coupling of ocean-land-atmosphere fluxes of carbon, the appropriateness of models and model-observation interfaces.