Fossil fuel CO2 emissions over metropolitan areas from space: A multi-model analysis of OCO-2 data over Lahore, Pakistan

Ruixue Lei, Sha Feng, Alexandre Danjou, Grégoire Broquet, Dien Wu, John C. Lin, Christopher W. O'Dell, Thomas Lauvaux

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Urban areas, where more than 55% of the global population gathers, contribute more than 70% of anthropogenic fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2ff) emissions. Accurate quantification of CO2ff emissions from urban areas is of great importance for formulating global warming mitigation policies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Satellite-based inversion techniques are unique among “top-down” approaches, potentially allowing us to track CO2ff emission changes over cities globally. However, their accuracy is still limited by incomplete background information, cloud blockages, aerosol contamination, and uncertainties in models and priori emission inventories. To evaluate the current potential of space-based quantification techniques, we present the first attempt to monitor long-term changes in CO2ff emissions based on the OCO-2 satellite measurements of column-averaged dry-air mole fractions of CO2 (XCO2) over a fast-growing Asian metropolitan area: Lahore, Pakistan. We first examined the OCO-2 data availability at global scale. About 17% of OCO-2 soundings over the global 70 most populated cities from 2014 to 2019 are marked as high-quality. Cloud blockage and aerosol contamination are the two main causes of data loss. As an attempt to recover additional soundings, we evaluated the effectiveness of OCO-2 quality flags at the city level by comparing three flux quantification methods (WRF-Chem, X-STILT, and the flux cross-sectional integration method). The satellite/bottom-up emissions (OCO-2/ODIAC) ratios of the high-quality tracks with reduced uncertainties in emissions are better agreed across the three methods compared to the all-data tracks. This demonstrates that OCO-2 quality flags are useful filters of low-quality OCO-2 retrievals at local scales. All three methods consistently suggested that the ratio medians are greater than 1, implying that the ODIAC slightly underestimated CO2ff emissions over Lahore. Additionally, our estimation of the a posteriori CO2ff emission trend was about 734 kt C/year (i.e., an annual 6.7% increase). 10,000 Monte Carlo simulations of the Mann-Kendall upward trend test showed that less than 10% prior uncertainty for 8 tracks (or less than 20% prior uncertainty for 25 tracks) is required to achieve a greater-than-50% trend significant possibility at a 95% confidence level. It implies that the trend is driven by the prior and not due to the assimilation of OCO-2 retrievals. The key to improving the role of satellite data in CO2 emission trend detection lies in collecting more frequent high-quality tracks near metropolitan areas to achieve significant constraints from XCO2 retrievals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112625
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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