Environmental Protection

Some industrial facilities emit greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane.

Earth Networks, Scripps Collaborate on Global GHG Observation

Company expands existing weather networks to monitor and measure greenhouse gases all over the world.

Earth Networks, formerly AWS Convergence Technologies and the owner and operator of WeatherBug products and services, will deploy the largest global greenhouse gas (GHG) observation network in close collaboration with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Earth Networks CEO Robert Marshall and Tony Haymet, Ph.D., director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, made the announcement (see video) on Jan. 12.

The immediate goal of the Earth Networks Greenhouse Gas Observation Network is to improve the understanding of GHGs in the atmosphere. By deploying and networking many instruments and combining that data with information from its existing weather networks around the world, Earth Networks will become a valuable source for detailed and reliable global environmental information. The data will be available to inform the research community, policy makers and private industry with more precise environmental intelligence. Further, the network will enable the independent measurement, reporting and verification of GHG levels and emissions to support international and regional climate policy initiatives.

In embarking on this new and expanded mission, Earth Networks is establishing the Earth Networks Center for Climate Research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This new center forms the pinnacle of scientific research collaboration between Earth Networks and Scripps and will be co-directed by Scripps Professor Ralph Keeling and Distinguished Scripps Research Professor Ray Weiss. Scripps Oceanography, a part of the University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for ocean and earth science research, education and public service in the world. Scripps scientists are playing a vital role in advising Earth Networks regarding the network design, methods to ensure data quality, and linking the network data to atmospheric modeling experts at research institutions around the world.

Looking ahead, Scripps researchers and their scientific colleagues plan to leverage the Earth Networks Center for Climate Research to conduct new, broad and far-reaching climate science.

Today, only a few dozen continuous GHG observing locations exist, which limits analysis. In contrast, Earth Networks will initially deploy 100 GHG observing systems worldwide, beginning with 50 in the continental United States., followed by deployments in Europe and other areas of the world. The density of the Earth Networks approach will make it possible to quantify and map more localized GHG emissions and uptakes (sinks), and importantly, their changes over time. Earth Networks will initially utilize environmental instruments from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Picarro. The Picarro GHG analyzers use a technique known as cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) to make precise and reliable measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Earth Networks will use gas calibration standards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that ensure compatibility with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) scales for GHGs. CO2 and CH4 are the two most important long-lived GHGs in the atmosphere.

Earth Networks is also working with scientific collaborators to apply sophisticated atmospheric modeling techniques to establish carbon and carbon-equivalent footprint reports for considerably smaller geographic regions than is currently practical. The atmospheric modeling techniques involve coupling GHG and weather measurements with computer models of regional atmospheric transport to quantify emission and uptake processes on a regional scale. This combined approach enables a better understanding of the complex global distribution and circulation of GHGs in the atmosphere. Earth Networks – similar to its experience with weather networks – anticipates that the initial network deployment will increase substantially over time and become a “network of networks” with several hundred observing systems worldwide.

“For the past 53 years, Scripps scientists have examined the atmosphere, and the new data from Earth Networks will empower the scientific community with a better understanding of this very complicated picture,” said Haymet, director of Scripps Oceanography. “This network is going to measure the most important greenhouse gases, which are sometimes created as the result of industrial activities. We’ll be able to comprehend a regional level that has not previously been examined. It is about building an extensive, top-down network that measures the gases that exist, and will exist tomorrow, in the atmosphere. The network being established by Earth Networks will enable Scripps to collect increasing amounts of data from around the U.S. and the world that will enable us to further refine our scientific studies on where greenhouse gases originate, how they circulate around our atmosphere, and how they move from one area to another.”

“Our mission is to take the ‘pulse of the planet’ by measuring key global environmental data on an unprecedented scale, utilizing the latest measurement and networking technologies,” said Marshall, who in 1993 co-founded AWS Convergence Technologies, the company that would become Earth Networks. “As a company, we have spent nearly 20 years monitoring weather on a more local scale than anyone has before. We have proven that the best decisions result not from limited data sets, but from thousands of data sources that are linked together to tell a much more detailed and intricate story. We plan to bring the same level of operational expertise we have gained in managing the largest weather network in the world to provide insight into other areas of the environment. Our collaboration with Scripps will enable us to deploy the most comprehensive greenhouse gas observation network in the world, and this new network will provide a key foundation for improving climate science.”

Earth Networks invites interested organizations including international governing bodies, municipalities, and private industry with an interest in monitoring GHGs in addition to researchers interested in using the GHG data to join the network. Interested parties should contact info@earthnetworks.com.

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