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University of Arizona scientists help track greenhouse gas emissions all over the world

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 6:58 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Researchers at the University of Arizona are helping lead the way when it comes to learning more about greenhouse gas emissions by imaging and tracking them to pinpoint where they’re coming from.

From methane to CO₂, greenhouse gases are released all around the world and it has been a problem no one can see or smell, until now.

“Imagine if you’re looking down from space, and there are thousands of wildfires, but they’re invisible. Nobody can smell them, but they’re doing damage to the environment,” said Riley Duren, a research scientist at the University of Arizona and CEO of Carbon Mapper.

The UA partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Arizona State University, Planet, High Tide Foundation and RMI to map and image emissions with hopes policymakers and regulatory agencies can use this information.

“We need to really be crowbarring the methane and CO₂ emissions today, and we can’t wait until 2030,” Duren said.

The groups teamed up to form Carbon Mapper, a nonprofit organization that will publish these maps and images free for anyone to see. Users can eventually type in and look at their location to see where the big methane and CO₂ emitters are all over the world.

“The old saying where you can’t manage what you can’t measure, we’re trying to measure,” Duren said.

The data points show if it’s methane or CO₂, and whether it’s coming from agricultural emitters, oil and gas or places like landfills. The colorful indicators show how much comes from these big producers as well.

Charles Miller, a project scientist at NASA’s Jet propulsion laboratory, has been working on imaging technology, like what Carbon Mapper uses, since the 1990s. The technology has drastically improved since then, from only being able to see a “column” of CO₂ emissions within 3 miles, to now being able to pinpoint to exact location and emitters.

“We’re able to look down to approximately 30 meters and actually begin to image individual plumes from these strong point sources,” Miller said.

They will use satellites to image the gases. Two will be launched in 2023, with more two years later. It will allow scientists to track emissions worldwide, daily. This technology has been prototyped over the state of California.

You can see their findings and look at the emissions map here.

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