EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Nitrosat, a satellite mission concept for mapping reactive nitrogen at the landscape scale

Pierre-Francois Coheur1, Pieternel Levelt2,3, Lieven Clarisse1, Martin Van Damme1, Henk Eskes2, Pepijn Veefkind2, Cathy Clerbaux1,4, Frank Dentener5, Jan Willem Erisman6, Martijn Schaap7,8, Mark A Sutton9, and Michel Van Roozendael10
Pierre-Francois Coheur et al.
  • 1Université libre de Bruxelles, Spectroscopy, Quantum Chemistry and Atmospheric Remote Sensing (SQUARES), Brussels, Belgium
  • 2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands
  • 3Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
  • 4LATMOS/IPSL, Sorbonne Université, UVSQ, CNRS, Paris, France
  • 5Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy
  • 6Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
  • 7Department of Climate, Air and Sustainability, TNO, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 8Institute for Meteorology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 9UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh, UK
  • 10Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium

The nitrogen cycle has been heavily perturbed due to ever growing agriculture, industry, transport and domestic production. It is believed that we now have reached a point where the nitrogen biochemical flow has exceeded its planetary boundary for a safe operating zone. This goes together with a cascade of impacts on human health and ecosystems. To better understand and address these impacts, there is a critical need to quantify the global nitrogen cycle and monitor its perturbations on all scales, down to the urban or agricultural source.

The Nitrosat concept, which was proposed most recently in the framework of ESA’s Earth Explorer 11 call, has for overarching objective to simultaneously identify the emission contributions of NH3 and NO2 from farming activities, industrial complexes, transport, fires and urban areas. The specific Nitrosat science goals are to:

  • Quantify the emissions of NH3 and NO2 on the landscape scales, to expose individual sources and characterize the temporal patterns of their emissions.
  • Quantify the relative contribution of agriculture, in its diversity of sectors and practices, to the total emissions of reactive nitrogen.
  • Quantify the contribution of reactive nitrogen to air pollution and its impact on human health.
  • Constrain the atmospheric dispersion and surface deposition of reactive nitrogen and its impacts on ecosystems and climate; and contribute to monitoring policy progress to reduce nitrogen deposition in Natura 2000 areas in Europe.
  • Reduce uncertainties in the contribution of reactive nitrogen to climate forcing, atmospheric chemistry and interactions between biogeochemical cycles.

To achieve these objectives, Nitrosat would consist of an infrared Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer and a Visible Imaging Pushbroom Spectrometer. These imaging spectrometers will measure NH3 and NO2 (respectively) at 500 m, which is the required spatial scale to differentiate, identify and quantify the main point and area sources in a single satellite overpass. Source regions would be probed from once a week to once a month to reveal the seasonal patterns. Combined with air quality models, assimilation and inverse modelling, these measurements would allow assessing the processes that are relevant for the human disruption of the nitrogen cycle and their resulting effects, in much more detail than what will be achieved with the satellite missions that are planned in the next decade. In this way, Nitrosat would enable informed evaluations of future policies on nitrogen emission control.

How to cite: Coheur, P.-F., Levelt, P., Clarisse, L., Van Damme, M., Eskes, H., Veefkind, P., Clerbaux, C., Dentener, F., Erisman, J. W., Schaap, M., Sutton, M. A., and Van Roozendael, M.: Nitrosat, a satellite mission concept for mapping reactive nitrogen at the landscape scale, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9932,, 2021.

Corresponding presentation materials formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.