The growing concentration of people living near coasts is exerting enormous pressure on coastal ecosystems. The impacts include declining fisheries, harmful algal blooms, and more than 20 persistent "dead zones" worldwide, including the Mississippi Delta. The twin stressors of climate change and population grown create an imperative to monitor changes in coastal oceans. at the same time, poor air quality threatens human and ecosystem health in many parts of the world. The current observation system for air quality is inadequate for measuring human exposure to pollutants and for crafting emissions control strategies.
The suite of instruments aboard GEO-CAPE will improve observations of coastal health and air quality across the Americas. From a a point in space roughly 80°W longitude, two spectrometers will sense reflected sunlight within several narrow wavelength bands. One spectrometer will scan at the continental scale, providing hourly data at a resolution of 7 kilometers. It will measure atmosphere, including those that react in sunlight to form polluting low-level ozone. The other spectrometer is a steerable imager that can gather data at a resolution of 250 meters on high-impact events such as large-scale fertilizer runoffs, industrial accidents, and other environmental disasters.
An infrared radiometer will measure carbon monoxide in tandem with the continental-scale spectrometer. Together, they will allow for vertical carbon monoxide profiles that help trace the long-range transport of pollution.