MOPITT is an instrument flying on NASA's EOS Terra spacecraft, measuring tropospheric carbon monoxide (CO) on the global scale.  MOPITT measurements enable scientists to analyze the distribution, transport, sources and sinks of CO, a trace gas produced by methane oxidation, fossil fuel consumption and biomass burning.  MOPITT has been operational since March 2000.

The MOPITT project is comprised of three elements: hardware, data production, and data analysis.  The MOPITT instrument was designed by Dr. Jim Drummond and the MOPITT/Canada team at the University of Toronto.  Infrared radiances in absorption bands of both CO and methane are measured using the technique of gas-filter correlation radiometry.  Through application of the MOPITT retrieval algorithm to the calibrated radiances, vertical profiles of CO concentration are obtained on a global basis at moderately high horizontal resolution (~22 km).  (Retrievals of methane have so far been unsuccessful because of problems with excessive 'noise' from both instrumental and geophysical sources.)  Ultimately, MOPITT retrieved CO profiles are either analyzed directly or are assimilated into models to study the chemistry and dynamics of CO (and other constituents) in the lower atmosphere.  As documented by numerous published papers, MOPITT retrievals of CO have been thoroughly validated in a variety of geographical settings.

The measurement of CO profiles has been identified as being of primary importance in an effort to improve our understanding of the global system.  This has been recognized by the EOS Science Steering Committee - "The fate of carbon monoxide, remotely detected from space, in conjunction with a few other critical meteorological and chemical parameters, is crucial to our understanding of the chemical reaction sequences that occur in the entire troposphere and govern most of the biogeochemical trace gases" (Eos, 1987).  This view is supported by the World Meteorological Organization - "Definition of trends and distributions for tropospheric CO is essential. A satellite-borne CO sensor operating for extended periods could help enormously" (WMO, 1985).

The problem of understanding tropospheric chemistry is a very difficult one involving many disciplines.  Our approach is to consider the entire science system from instrument to modeling, to scientific understanding as a continuous process requiring the skills of a variety of specialists.  Hence the MOPITT/NCAR Science Team consists of scientists and software engineers with expertise in all the major areas required.

Funding for the MOPITT instrument is provided by the Space Science Division of the Canadian Space Agency.  Funding for the U.S. effort including the development of science data processing software and science data products is provided by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Instrument Concepts

Retrieval Algorithm



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