Scientists have developed a method to improve the accuracy of human CO2 emissions measurements. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring gas on Earth. Is part of earth’s atmosphere with oxygen and nitrogen. For millions of years, the forces of nature have been responsible for the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and therefore for regulating temperature on the planet. The situation changed when man started burning large amounts of fossil fuels. Burn coal, crude oil and natural gas it has grown with the needs of increasing industrialization and technological development. According to scientific data, human production of additional CO2 has increased the average temperature on Earth is 1.2°C.
When scientists discovered this relationship, it turned out that we needed to reduce CO2 production and control it carefully. Unfortunately, until now, there has been no method to accurately monitor the amount produced by humans. carbon dioxide short term. It is difficult to quickly separate natural CO2 from the gas which forms hourly and in different ways of anthropogenic originbecause the calculation of its amount uses a method based on the tonnage of fossil fuels burned. It is a technique that takes a long time to collect the right amount of data.
The speed of circulation of information about sources of CO2 emissions is important when planning its reduction and source substitution climate-neutral technology. These can be, for example electric car instead of exhaust or nuclear power plants and renewable energies instead of carbon.
Many people wonder why CO2 content measurements instruments located in satellites or airplanes are not used in the atmosphere? She had tried once Nasahowever, this method is very imprecise. Natural man-made CO2 cannot be precisely separated by such techniques.
APO method from Great Britain
At Britain’s Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, the air is tested for carbon dioxide and oxygen. The natural proportions of the two gases are constant and the addition of anthropogenic CO2 to this mixture disturbs them. Using this difference, Weybourne specialists can calculate the imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide from human activities. This method was called APO (atmospheric potential oxygen).
While separating anthropogenic CO2 it is decisive that in nature it is absorbed in equal proportions to oxygen, so that in the measurement results the sum of the contents of the two gases is 0 (zero). As a result fossil fuel we emit more CO2 than we absorb oxygen, the proportion of O2-CO2 in the atmosphere is disturbed and the sum of the measurements is greater than the amount of carbon dioxide we emit.
COVID-19 has helped monitor CO2 in the atmosphere
To help scientists accurately calculate changes in the level of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere,… Covid-19 pandemicand more particularly the periodic decreases in “human” emissions that result from it. The APO method has been refined thanks to the pandemic”blockagesAnd the periodic table global economic downturn. Thanks to them, the scientists tested the ability of the method to accurately determine the origin of CO2 in the air.
In their research, the Weybourne scientists used atmospheric parameters from ten years of measurements. Thanks to this, they “formed” machine learning modelwhich allowed us to know a lot air parameters containing anthropogenic CO2. The data collection included, among other things, the speed and direction of the wind, the amount of CO2 or the region where the air being tested came from.
Penelope Pickers, atmospheric researcher at the University of East Anglia, says: “Through this research, we found out what emissions might have interacted with this air mass. Once the air reached us and we used APO to separate anthropogenic CO2, it turned out how much recent emissions have been in this region.
Pickers and his colleagues checked the APO by comparing pre-pandemic measures with those of periodic economic downturns and reduced emissions. As a result, it was possible to estimate the magnitude of the emission reduction over these periods and compare it to the results of other methods. In this way, it was possible to demonstrate the accuracy of the APO method.
Steven Smith, Principal Investigator of the Community Emissions Data System at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, comments: “In the atmosphere, we observe both changes in CO2 from fossil fuels and changes in vegetation and the earth’s carbon cycle and ocean absorption. This method (APO) is interesting because it isolates this effect. »
How accurate is APO?
The APO method can be used to measure CO2 emissions in certain geographical areas or regions, but without distinguishing between sources such as industrial factories or cars. However, the mere possibility of a local study of anthropogenic carbon dioxide content is a lot. Thanks to this technique, it is possible to verify the effectiveness of the introduction of sharper car exhaust emission standards or other restrictions.
Joshua Laughner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “I think it’s really interesting work. I like what they are doing (at Weybourne) with the idea of combining CO2 and O2 measurements. This effect decoupling problem biosphere human emissions is a problem that we have tried to solve – or approach – in different ways, and this approach (APO) is really smart.”
APO is meant to complement other research methodseach of which has its advantages and disadvantages. Satellites can monitor the entire planet, but they are expensive. Calculating fossil fuel use gives a good measure of human CO2 emissions, but takes time to produce results. Compared to these techniques, the APO is a method which makes it possible to obtain results in near real timehowever, it is rather regional in nature and requires fixed laboratories.
Kevin Gurney, climatologist at Northern Arizona University comments: “Ground measurements have some disadvantages compared to satellites. However, there is no reason why the number of earth stations should not be increased and placed strategically and densely to completely isolate countries or regions.
Kevin Gurney adds: “This type of work is important because we need to know where the CO2 is coming from before we can get rid of it. The precision simply gives you a better idea of what you are about to prioritize. After taking preventative measures – say a city launches a program to reduce energy waste by building insulation – monitoring of emissions real time help managers determine if it’s working or not and adjust accordingly. You want to track the effects, because if the program isn’t working, it’s worth knowing about it as soon as possible. “
There is no ideal method for tracking the anthropogenic CO2 content of the atmosphere. However, we can build a network of APO centers that would connect satellite monitoring and fuel consumption calculationswhich would give a higher accuracy of the test human impact on global warming.
Penelope Pickers says: “We already have quite a large network (of observatories) in some parts of the world. Quick access to information, at the right scale, on how emissions are happening is really important if we are to succeed in reducing CO2 emissions.