Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Emissions are Rising...

...and depending upon your point of view, we are doomed or we still have hope. The future is not predetermined, right?

This post started with a BGI classmate's post on our community site, leading me to think about it for the past few weeks.

A recent climate related release called The Vulcan Project, in true systems thinking/modeling form, seeks to help us better understand the sources, levels, and behavior of that climate change demon...CO2. Here's a brief overview of what it is from their website:

The Vulcan Project is a NASA/DOE funded effort under the North American Carbon Program (NACP)to quantify North American fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at space and time scales much finer than has been achieved in the past. The purpose is to aid in quantification of the North American carbon budget, to support inverse estimation of carbon sources and sinks, and to support the demands posed by the launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO)scheduled for 2008/2009. The detail and scope of the Vulcan CO2 inventory has also made it a valuable tool for policymakers, demographers and social scientists.
The Vulcan project has achieved the quantification of the United States fossil fuel CO2 emissions at the scale of individual factories, power plants, roadways and neighborhoods. We have built the entire inventory on a common 10 km grid to facilitate atmospheric modeling. Vulcan is available at the hourly timescale for the year 2002. In addition to improvement in space and time resolution, Vulcan is quantified at the level of fuel type, economic sub-sector, and county/state identification.

If you are remotely interested in CO2 emissions tracking efforts you should check out the Youtube illustration (see above).

When I watched the video clip, I was amazed at the magnitude of the cyclical rise and fall of emissions matching the industrial circadian rhythm of our society. It was also interesting to note that east of the Mississippi is shrouded by CO2; the west is not nearly as covered. I am no atmospheric scientist, but I can imagine that the population density and therefore power plant density (especially the coal fired generation assets along the Ohio Valley) of the east contributes to this effect. Considering that many of my classmates live in the Pacific NW, it is interesting to note that the daily plumes there are of far lower magnitudes than in the east, again partially due to population, partially due to fuel mix, and partially due to the fact that they're just a greener bunch of people!
The image below shows where CO2 is being emitted in the continental United States in 10-kilometer grids and combines data from sources including factories, automobiles on highways and power plants. The map offers more than 100 times the detail of previous inventories of carbon dioxide. The image displays metric tons of carbon per year per grid in a logarithmic base-10 scale. (Purdue University image/Kevin Gurney)

Oh yeah, and emissions are rising. I guess it's time to get that bike out of storage.

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