Principles of infrared remote sensing

By remote sensing of the atmosphere using infrared solar absorption or emission spectroscopy, we analyse the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. Thanks to this technique, we quantify the abundances and changes of many different gases in the atmosphere.

Because they absorb in the infrared spectral range of the electromagnetic radiation (solar light or thermal emission from the earth-atmosphere system), we are able to detect the following compounds in the atmosphere:

  • Greenhouse gases (e.g. water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons)        
  • Various stratospheric species including compounds playing a role in the ozone layer’s health (e.g. nitric acid, hydrogen chloride, etc.)
  • Pollutants (e.g. carbon monoxide)
  • Volatile organic compounds (e.g. formaldehyde, formic acid, …)

More information about these compounds can be found under Data Exploitation.


The observations are carried out from various platforms (ground, satellite, possibly aircraft in the future), with Fourier-transform infrared spectrometers or other types of high-spectral-resolution spectrometers operating in the infrared spectral range.


Instrumental Fourier Transform Spectroscopy Link


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