Until now, the technology hasn't been available to obtain fine-scaled, precise measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. But the launch next year of two carbon-detecting satellites, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory and the Japanese Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite, should soon help to fill in this knowledge gap, which is critical to establishing a reliable carbon accounting system. - Amanda Leigh Mascarelli
There's more info on the NASA project at http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/, and on the Japanese project at http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/gosat/index_e.html
It amazes me that this isn't getting more attention already. It's going to mean a massive increase in our ability to account for carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and uptakes. Seems to me that these projects should be WAY more exciting than the Large Hadron Collider, for example, since they will so directly effect the science around one of the most important and controversial issues of this... century? millenium?
It also strikes me that images extrapolated from the data could be strikingly beautiful - in a similar way to the "earth by night" photos. Obviously carbon concentrations won't be so strictly confined as light sources, and the images will obviously be false colour (since CO2 is invisible). But other effects, like those of coriolis winds and ocean and forest carbon sinks would be great to see in action, especially with changes over the seasons.
Leigh, A. et al. (2008, December 18). What we've learned in 2008. Nature Reports Climate Change. Retrieved January 12, 2009, from http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0901/full/climate.2008.142.html.