AgriLife Research adds new instrumentation to measure greenhouse gases

December 21, 2011

As greenhouse gases become more of a concern, determining the actual rates of emissions through scientific data is a growing necessity, according to a Texas AgriLife Research scientist in Amarillo.

Dr. Ken Casey, AgriLife Research air quality engineer, has commissioned through his program an open-path Fourier transform infra-red spectrometer for use in monitoring greenhouse gases.

This is in collaboration with Dr. Brock Faulkner in the Texas A&M University biological and agricultural engineering department, who set up an identical open-path spectrometer at the same feedyard 18 months ago for long-term emissions monitoring.

Each instrument cost $125,000, Casey said. The instrumentation and project are being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture air quality project and a state-appropriated air quality project.

Both researchers are using the instruments to measure emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases with global warming potentials of 21 and 310 times higher, respectively, than that of carbon dioxide, Casey said.

To date, greenhouse gas inventory methodology comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and that methodology for intensive livestock facilities is based on a very limited data set which was not collected from the type of animal feeding systems in this region, Casey said.

"We are concerned the inventories don't accurately reflect actual emissions from feedyard operations because they are based on limited research on some production systems that may not be typical of what happens on a High Plains feedyard. Hence, the resulting inventory has a significant degree of uncertainty," he said.

"Because the concentration of nitrous oxide in normal air is not zero and the increase in contribution from a large feedyard operation is relatively small, complex and very expensive instrumentation must be used to accurately measure the increase in concentration," Casey said.

The open path configuration of these instruments allows more sensitive measurements to be made by integrating the concentration in the air over a path length of 300-450 meters between an infra-red light source and the spectrometer, Casey said.

Working together, the two open path spectrometers can measure the concentration of nitrous oxide downwind and upwind of the feedyard regardless of which direction the wind is coming from, he said.

"Other agricultural operations such as field cultivation and fertilizer application can contribute to a varying background which must be accurately accounted for in calculating the emissions," Casey said. "If you can't account for the background, then you can't measure the emissions from the feedyard alone."

The scientists will be continuously monitoring the emissions of nitrous oxide particularly, because they are episodic, influenced by season and by rainfall, he said. "If you are not there when it happens, you miss it."

Their goal is to get a good measurement of the annual emissions and then "we can use this data for improving the emissions workbooks of federal and other regulating agencies," Casey said.

"Also, by gaining a better understanding of what controls these emissions and when they occur, we can guide feedyard management in implementing practices that can minimize the emissions," he said.
-end-


Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.