Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Measuring CO2 to fight global warming

May 15, 2012
If the world's nations ever sign a treaty to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas, there may be a way to help verify compliance: a new method developed by scientists from the University of Utah and Harvard.

Using measurements from only three carbon-dioxide (CO2) monitoring stations in the Salt Lake Valley, the method could reliably detect changes in CO2 emissions of 15 percent or more, the researchers report in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of May 14, 2012.

The method is a proof-of-concept first step even though it is less precise than the 5 percent accuracy recommended by a National Academy of Sciences panel in 2010. The study's authors say satellite monitoring of carbon dioxide levels ultimately may be more accurate than the ground-based method developed in the new study.

"The primary motivation for the study was to take high-quality data of atmospheric CO2 in an urban region and ask if you could predict the emissions patterns based on CO2 concentrations in the air," says study coauthor Jim Ehleringer, a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Utah.

"The ultimate use is to verify CO2 emissions in the event that the world's nations agree to a treaty to limit such emissions," he says. "The idea is can you combine concentration information - CO2 in the air near the ground - and weather patterns, which is wind blowing, and mathematically determine emissions based on that information."

Ehleringer did the study with four Massachusetts atmospheric scientists: Kathryn McKain and Steven Wofsy of Harvard University, and Thomas Nehrkorn and Janusz Eluszkiewicz of Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.

While the method can detect changes of 15 percent or more in CO2 levels, determining absolute levels is tricky and depends on certain assumptions, but it can be done, Ehleringer says.

"The model [new method] predicts more CO2 emissions than we see," based on a federal government survey that previously estimated carbon dioxide emissions based on interviews with gas- and coal-burning utilities and sellers of fuel and natural gas, he says. "That shouldn't surprise you. People are underreporting."

Estimating CO2 Emissions

Ehleringer began monitoring carbon dioxide levels in the Salt Lake Valley in 2002 as part of a National Science Foundation-funded study of the urban airshed. The monitoring network measures CO2 from six sites across the Salt Lake Valley and a seventh well above the valley at Snowbird.

"It is the most extensive publicly available and online data set of CO2 concentrations in an urban area in the world," he says (co2.utah.edu).

The new study created a computer simulation of CO2 emissions in the Salt Lake Valley using three sources of information:

- CO2 measurements from three sites - the University of Utah, downtown Salt Lake City and Murray, Utah, about halfway south down the valley's length.

- Data from weather stations in the valley, crunched through weather forecasting software used to predict wind and air circulation.

- Satellite data showing what parts of the valley are covered by homes, other buildings, trees, agriculture and so on.

The emissions estimates from the simulation were compared with the results of the government survey that estimates CO2 emissions.

"You come up with estimates for emissions that are within 15 percent or better of the actual emissions for the region," Ehleringer says.

Even though that is not as precise as desired by the National Academy of Sciences, "it is a very powerful first step," he adds. "However we would like to be within 5 percent for treaty verification purposes."

Because urban regions are major sources of CO2, "a large fraction of a country's emissions likely emanate from such regions, and results from several representative cities over time could provide strong tests of claimed emission reductions at national or regional scales," the researchers write.

The simulation showed how ground-level CO2 concentrations increased overnight when air was calm, and then decreased in the morning as sunlight mixed the air and plants consumed CO2 due to photosynthesis. Sometimes the simulation failed to catch the exact time this mixing occurred.

That is part of the reason the researchers argue satellite measurements through a mile-thick vertical column of air may better estimate CO2 concentrations and thus emissions by being less sensitive to ground-level variations close and far from emissions sources like smokestacks or intersections with idling vehicles.

Several satellites around the world now make limited CO2 measurements. But the researchers write that "no presently planned satellite has the necessary orbit or targeting capability" for the desired urban CO2 measurements.

Several previous studies looked at CO2 levels in various cities, but none at the full urban scale or with accuracy near what is required for treaty verification, the researchers say. The only study that accurately measured an urban area's CO2 emissions over time - in Heidelberg, Germany - did so with a method too expensive for routine use.

Ehleringer's part of the research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The study says his coauthors were funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation and - without specifics - "by the U.S. intelligence community," which would be involved in treaty verification.



University of Utah


Related Global Warming Current Events and Global Warming News Articles


Why global warming is taking a break
Global warming is currently taking a break: whereas global temperatures rose drastically into the late 1990s, the global average temperature has risen only slightly since 1998 - surprising, considering scientific climate models predicted considerable warming due to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Exporting US coal to Asia could drop emissions 21 percent
Under the right scenario, exporting U.S. coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning the fossil fuel at plants in the United States, according to a new Duke University-led study.

Sun's activity influences natural climate change
For the first time, a research team has been able to reconstruct the solar activity at the end of the last ice age, around 20,000-10,000 years ago, by analysing trace elements in ice cores in Greenland and cave formations from China.

York survey highlights ocean research priorities
Declines in ocean productivity, increases in ocean acidification, and the cumulative effects of multiple stressors on ocean health are among the most pressing issues facing coastal and maritime countries, according to a survey of scientists by a University of York researcher.

A global temperature conundrum: Cooling or warming climate?
When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently requested a figure for its annual report, to show global temperature trends over the last 10,000 years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Zhengyu Liu knew that was going to be a problem.

Happier consumers can lead to healthier environment, research reveals
The pursuit of true happiness can lead people to lifestyles that will not only be satisfying but will be better for the environment, according to an overview of psychological research presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

Northern Pacific's tropical anoxic zone might shrink from climate change
A commonly held belief that global warming will diminish oxygen concentrations in the ocean looks like it may not be entirely true. According to new research published in Science magazine, just the opposite is likely the case in the northern Pacific Ocean, with its anoxic zone expected to shrink in coming decades because of climate change.

Atlantic warming turbocharges Pacific trade winds
New research has found rapid warming of the Atlantic Ocean, likely caused by global warming, has turbocharged Pacific Equatorial trade winds. Currently the winds are at a level never before seen on observed records, which extend back to the 1860s.

Atlantic origin of recent Pacific trade wind, sea level and temperature trends
An Australian-US team of climate researchers has solved a puzzle that has challenged scientists for over a decade.

Stanford professor finds that wildfires and other burns play bigger role in climate change
It has long been known that biomass burning - burning forests to create agricultural lands, burning savannah as a ritual , slash-and-burn agriculture and wildfires - figures into both climate change and public health.
More Global Warming Current Events and Global Warming News Articles

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (PDF Booklet)

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (PDF Booklet)
by National Academies Press


Climate Change: Evidence and Causes is a jointly produced publication of The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society. Written by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists and reviewed by climate scientists and others, the publication is intended as a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on the some of the questions that continue to be asked. Climate Change makes clear what is well-established and where understanding is still developing. It echoes and builds upon the long history of climate-related work from both national academies, as well as on the newest climate-change assessment from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It touches on current...

Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast

Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast
by David Archer (Author)


Archer's Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast 2nd Edition, is the first real text to present the science and policy surrounding climate change at the right level. Accompanying videos, simulations and instructional support makes it easier to build a syllabus to improve and create new material on climate change. Archer's polished writing style makes the text entertaining while the improved pedagogy helps better understand key concepts, ideas and terms.This edition has been revised and reformulated with a new chapter template of short chapter introductions, study questions at the end, and critical thinking puzzlers throughout. Also a new asset for the BCS was created that will give ideas for assignments and topics for essays and other projects. Furthermore, a number of interactive...

The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change

The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change
by Bill McKibben (Author)


Our most widely respected environmental writer brings together the essential voices on global warming, from its 19th-century discovery to the present
With the rise of extreme weather events worldwide--witness the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Katrina, and the sustained drought across the American West--global warming has become increasingly difficult to deny.

What is happening to our planet? And what can we do about it? The Global Warming Reader provides more than thirty-five answers to these burning questions, from more than one hundred years of engagement with the topic. Here is Elizabeth Kolbert's groundbreaking essay "The Darkening Sea," Michael Crichton's skeptical view of climate change, George Monbiot's biting indictment of those who are...

Global Warming

Global Warming
by Seymour Simon (Author)


Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon gives you a full-color photographic introduction to the causes and effects of global warming and climate change. Earth's climate has always varied, but it is now changing more rapidly than at any other time in recent centuries. The climate is very complex, and many factors play important roles in determining how it changes. Why is the climate changing? Could Earth be getting warmer by itself? Are people doing things that make the climate warmer?Supports the Common Core State Standards

Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming
by McKenzie Funk (Author)


A fascinating investigation into how people around the globe are cashing in on a warming world

McKenzie Funk has spent the last six years reporting around the world on how we are preparing for a warmer planet. Funk shows us that the best way to understand the catastrophe of global warming is to see it through the eyes of those who see it most clearly—as a market opportunity.

Global warming’s physical impacts can be separated into three broad categories: melt, drought, and deluge. Funk travels to two dozen countries to profile entrepreneurial people who see in each of these forces a potential windfall.

The melt is a boon for newly arable, mineral-rich regions of the Arctic, such as Greenland—and for the surprising kings of the manmade snow trade,...

Global Warming: The Complete Briefing

Global Warming: The Complete Briefing
by John Houghton (Author)


John Houghton's market-leading textbook is now in full color and includes the latest IPCC findings, making it the definitive guide to climate change. Written for students across a wide range of disciplines, its simple, logical flow of ideas gives an invaluable grounding in the science and impacts of climate change and highlights the need for action on global warming. Is there evidence for climate changing due to human activities? How do we account for recent extremes of weather and climate? Can global electricity provision and transport ever be carbon free? Written by a leading figure at the forefront of action to confront humanity's most serious environmental problem, this undergraduate textbook comprehensively explores these and other issues, allowing students to think through the...

Get Smart about Global Warming: How Climate Change Might Change our Earth and Our Civilization

Get Smart about Global Warming: How Climate Change Might Change our Earth and Our Civilization


Global warming or climate change, is one of the most talked about and controversial subjects in our modern age. This book provides a quick read primer on the subject, to get you up to speed to be conversant on the topic with family, friends, and co-workers. This book will teach you how global warming came about, what the current political situation regarding global warming is, how individuals can prevent global warming, and the environmental consequences if global warming does not stop.


Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction

Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction
by Mark Maslin (Author)


Global warming is arguably the most critical and controversial issue facing the world in the twenty-first century, one that will affect every living creature on the planet. It is also an extraordinarily complex problem, which everyone needs to understand as clearly and completely as possible. This Very Short Introduction provides a concise and accessible explanation of the key aspects of global warming. Mark Maslin discusses how and why changes are occurring, sets current warming trends in the context of past climate change, examines the predicted impact of global warming, as well as the political controversies of recent years and the many proposed solutions. Fully updated for 2008, this compelling account offers the best current scientific understanding of global warming, describing...

Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers; A Geoscientist looks at the Science of Climate Change

Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers; A Geoscientist looks at the Science of Climate Change
by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC


“The author makes it very clear that a changing climate is not unusual. It is in fact the norm -- although change is often so slow that humans cannot detect it directly.  But historical geologists know how to display the evidence to the public. This may be the single most important contribution of this well-written and fact-filled book.”—Dr. S. Fred Singer, Chairman Science & Environmental Policy Project

“Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics and Deniers is a refreshing read on a topic of great societal importance; refreshing because, unlike many books published on this subject, the authors of this work evaluate key predictions and controversies of the global warming debate using logic and science.  Most readers will appreciate the book’s arrangement.  Each chapter...

Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam

Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam
by Brian Sussman (Author)


Those now notorious intercepted emails documenting leading scientists conspiring to squelch global-warming skeptics and falsifying data proved exactly what Brian Sussman has been saying for years. Climategate is intended for anyone who has ever expressed skepticism about the clamorous environmentalist claims that the Earth is in peril because of mankind's appetite for carbon-based fuels. By tracing the origins of the current climate scare, Sussman guides the reader from the diabolical minds of Marx and Engles in the 1800s, to the global governance machinations of the United Nations today. Climategate is a call to action, warning Americans that their future is being undermined by a phony pseudo-science aimed at altering and dominating every aspect of life in the United States and the...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com