Researchers track megacity carbon footprints using mounted sensors

Researchers with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory have undertaken a large project that will allow them to measure the carbon footprint of megacities – those with millions of residents, such as Los Angeles and Paris. Such an endevour is achieved using sensors mounted in high locations above the cities, such as a peak in the San Gabriel Mountains and a high-up level on the Eiffel Tower that is closed to tourist traffic.

The sensors are designed to detect a variety of greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, augmenting other stations that are already located in various places globally that measure greenhouse gases. These particular sensors are designed to achieve two purposes: monitor the specific carbon footprint effects of large cities, and as a by-product of that information to show whether such large cities are meeting – or are even capable of meeting – their green initiative goals.

Such measuring efforts will be intensified this year. In Los Angeles, for example, scientists working on the project will add a dozen gas analyzers to various rooftop locations throughout the city, as well as to a Prius, which will be driven throughout the city and a research aircraft to be navigated to "methane hotspots." The data gathered from all these sensors, both present and slated for installation, is then analyzed using software that looks at whether levels have increased, decreased, or are stable, as well as determining where the gases originated from.

One of the examples given is vehicle emissions, with scientists being able to determine (using this data) the effects of switching to green vehicles over more traditional ones and whether its results indicate that it is something worth pursuing or whether it needs to be further analyzed for potential effectiveness. Reported the Associated Press, three years ago California saw 58-percent of its carbon dioxide come from gasoline-powered cars.

California is looking to reducing its emissions levels to a sub-35-percent level over 1990 by the year 2030, a rather ambitious goal. In 2010, it was responsible for producing 408 million tons of carbon dioxide, which outranks just about every country on the planet, putting it about on par with all of Spain. Thus far into the project, both the United States and France have individually spent approximately $3 million the project.

SOURCE: Associated Press