For better knowledge of the carbon cycle, there is a need for spaceborne measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentration. Because the gradients are relatively small, the accuracy requirements are better than 1%. We analyze the feasibility of a CO2-weighted-column estimate, using the differential absorption technique, from high-resolution spectroscopic measurements in the 1.6- and 2-μm CO2 absorption bands. Several sources of uncertainty that can be neglected for other gases with less stringent accuracy requirements need to be assessed. We attempt a quantification of errors due to the radiometric noise, uncertainties in the temperature, humidity and surface pressure uncertainty, spectroscopic coefficients, and atmospheric scattering. Atmospheric scattering is the major source of error [5 parts per 106 (ppm) for a subvisual cirrus cloud with an assumed optical thickness of 0.03], and additional research is needed to properly assess the accuracy of correction methods. Spectroscopic data are currently a major source of uncertainty but can be improved with specific ground-based sunphotometry measurements. The other sources of error amount to several ppm, which is less than, but close to, the accuracy requirements. Fortunately, these errors are mostly random and will therefore be reduced by proper averaging.
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