This falls into the category of ‘why didn’t someone think of this before?’ AWS Convergence Technologies of Germantown, Md., better known for its WeatherBug observation services, is joining forces with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to deploy what it is describing as the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) observation network in the world.
AWS, which has changed its name to Earth Networks simultaneous with this announcement, plans to invest $25 million over the next five years to build out more than 100 advanced GHG sensors, according to Earth Networks CEO Robert Marshall. The network will use sensor technologies from Picarro, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., he says. AWS has been tracking weather since 1993.
Marshall says these sensors will offer a new level of “environmental intelligence” that can be used by governments and corporations to more closely measure the fluctuations of GHG emissions in given regions. Because Earth Networks is an expert in weather services, the new network will be able to help scientists and communities study the impact of weather patterns on the global ebb and flow of GHGs. This is a new level of “environmental intelligence” that Marshall says simply isn’t available today. There currently are only a few dozen instruments around the world measuring GHG data, the most famous of which is the Scripps observatory on the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. “This installation alone was responsible for finding out that there is an issue in monitoring rising levels of greenhouse gasses,” Marshall says.
The data collected by the planned GHG network will be available to the research community, government policy makers and companies from the private sector. Among other things, Marshall believes the network will help governments verify GHG levels in accordance with ongoing emissions reduction goals that have been embraced around the world. “Verification and reporting are a key issue for many countries,” he says.
The first 100 sensors should be in action within 12 months, he says. The first 50 of those sensors will be deployed in the continental United States, followed by Europe. The measurements will focus on carbon dioxide and methane, using calibration standards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Earth Networks will integrate data from its WeatherBug service with the GHG readings in order to provide richer climate information.
Tony Hayment, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., said:
“This network is going to measure the most important greenhouse gases, which are sometimes created as a 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.”
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist with a passion for green technology and corporate sustainability issues.