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Chris O'Dell
CIRA Fellow

Chris O'Dell

Senior Research Scientist/Scholar

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About Me:

Dr. O’Dell leads the Carbon Research Group at CIRA, which is primarily focused on better understanding the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs), chiefly carbon dioxide and methane, to and from the atmosphere.   Our group includes experts who contribute to direct measurements of GHGs with satellites, as well as members who evaluate the surface fluxes of these gases.  In terms of the latter, we can ask questions such as

“Is the Amazon a net source or sink of carbon, and is that changing over time? If so, why?”

“Can we monitor a city’s carbon emissions over time using satellites, to see if their emissions are going down in line with their goals?”

“How much better can we monitor the carbon cycle with upcoming satellite missions?”

Dr. O’Dell specifically focuses on making accurate measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane concentrations using satellite observations of the spectrum of earth-reflected sunlight in the near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

My Current Research Projects
  • Improving measurements of carbon dioxide with the two Orbiting Carbon Observatory instruments (OCO-2 and OCO-3). These projects are funded through a partnership with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
  • Assisting in developing robust GHG retrieval algorithms for the proposed GeoCarb satellite, which aims to measure column-mean concentrations of CO2, CH4, and CO from geostationary orbit above the Americas.  This project is a joint collaboration between the University of Oklahoma, CSU, Lockheed Martin, and LumenUs Scientific.
  • Developing a retrieval algorithm for carbon dioxide using measurements from the upcoming MethaneSAT satellite, in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Wofsy group at Harvard University.
My History

Dr. Chris O’Dell received his Ph.D. studying the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. It led to the tightest upper limit on the polarization of the CMB at that time. Because of concerns about anthropogenically-forced changes in the earth’s climate, Chris took a post-doc position in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he spent three years researching satellite-based measurements of clouds, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. He then did a brief internship at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, UK, on the assimilation of cloud- and precipitation-affected microwave radiances into the ECMWF forecast model. After this, Chris moved to Colorado State University, to work primarily on building a retrieval of carbon dioxide from newly-available near-infrared satellite measurements. He served as a member of the CSU Dept. of Atmopsheric Science faculty from 2012-2015. He is currently a senior reseach scientist at CIRA.