A new map offers more than 100 times the detail of previous inventories of carbon dioxide. The map, from Vulcan, a research project led by Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor at Purdue, shows where CO2 is being emitted in the continental U.S. in 10-kilometer grids and combines data from sources including factories, automobiles on highways and power plants.
In the image above, the amount of red represents the increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from previous estimates, and the blue represents a reduction in atmospheric CO2. Purdue assistant professor Kevin Gurney says the difference appears greatest in winter months when there are more emissions and less vertical air movement.
The increased detail and accuracy of Vulcan will help lawmakers create policies to reduce CO2 emissions while also increasing scientists’ understanding of the sources and fate of carbon dioxide, researchers say.
Before now the only thing policy-makers could do was take a big blunt tool and bang the U.S. economy with it,” Gurney says. “Now we have more quantifiable information about what is happening in neighborhoods, on roads and in industrial areas, and track the CO2 by the hour. This offers policy-makers something akin to a scalpel instead.”
A preliminary analysis of the Vulcan data suggests that previous maps of U.S. fossil fuel emissions were inadequate for current scientific and policy-making needs, Gurney says.
The three-year project, which was funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy under the North American Carbon Program, involved researchers from Purdue University, Colorado State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Vulcan is expected to complement NASA’s planned December 2008 launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory satellite, which will measure the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Vulcan data is available for anyone to download from the Web site. Smaller summary data sets that offer a slice of the data and are easier to download also are available for non-scientists on the Vulcan Web site. These can be broken down into emission categories, such as industrial, residential, transportation, power producers, by fuel type, and are available by state, county, or cells as small as six miles (10 kilometers) across.
A video of the maps and simulations of the atmospheric fate of fossil fuel CO2 can be viewed below.