Accurate monitoring of greenhouse gas concentrations in urban areas is the key to reducing emissions according to researchers from Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and their partners from several other universities.
The team developed an innovative method called ‘The Indianapolis Flux’, or INFLUX, which puts together measurements of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide collected from sensors mounted on high towers or airplanes.
The team from Penn State is responsible for the monitoring of the sensors, which collect continuous data from the atmosphere. The data collected from the 12 tower-based sensors located across the region, are combined with measurements from flights over the area and information on energy usage of individual buildings. These allow the researchers to establish fluctuations in greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully bring them a step closer to developing universal standards for monitoring and measuring of urban air pollutants.
Ken Davis, professor of meteorology at Penn State and a lead researcher on the project, is convinced that this is a very easy monitoring method, because all emissions eventually end up in the atmosphere. The only requirement is to keep track of any changes in atmospheric conditions.
The difference between this new method, and all existing ones, is the error. Typically used inventories and monitoring of economic activity related to burning of fossil fuels, are very hard to maintain up to date, and essentially they require validation with atmospheric measurements from single locations. This is where the new method comes in, complementing the established methodologies.
And the team does not stop there. In addition to the sensors, the scientists run the Weather Research and Forecast model, the Lagrangian Particle Dispersion Model and a Bayesian matrix inversion, in order to explain the rates and location of emissions.