Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS)

An Infrastructure to Monitor the European Greenhouse Gas Balance

Authored by: Abad Chabbi , Henry W. Loescher , Bert Gielen , Maarten Op de Beeck , Denis Loustau , Reinhart Ceulemans , Armin Jordan , Dario Papale

Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Infrastructures

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781498751315
eBook ISBN: 9781315368252
Adobe ISBN:


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Climate change is one of the most challenging problems that humanity has to cope with in the coming decades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) has concluded that the observed rise in global temperature is very likely due to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, caused by anthropogenic emissions. These increased concentrations of CO2 and CH4, which exceed by far the natural range observed over the last 650,000 years, and its impact on the global biogeochemical cycles are a major driving force of current and future climate change. The current levels of CO2 have increased by 40% from preindustrial times (Jackson et al., 2016). Moreover, the current atmospheric levels of CH4 are nearly two and a half times the preindustrial value. The main sources of anthropogenic CH4 emissions are fossil fuel combustion and modifications of global vegetation through land use change, in particular deforestation. Terrestrial vegetation and oceans absorb together about half of the yearly anthropogenic emissions (Le Quere et al., 2009). The question is whether these sinks will be persistent in the future, especially under changing climatic conditions and under increased human pressure. At the current atmospheric level of CH4, the natural oxidizing power of the atmosphere removes almost all the CH4 emitted by human activities and natural sources, but increased human activities are expected to increase emissions even further and result in elevated CH4 concentrations in the atmosphere (Kirschke et al., 2013).

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