“There have been many inquiries whether we can see in our CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa and elsewhere the slowdown in CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. That drop in emissions needs to be large enough to stand out from natural CO2 variability caused by how plants and soils respond to seasonal and annual variations of temperature, humidity, soil moisture, etc. These natural variations are large, and so far the “missing” emissions do not stand out. Here is an example: If emissions are lower by 25%, then we would expect the monthly mean CO2 for March at Mauna Loa to be lowered by about 0.2 ppm, and again in April, etc. Thus, when we compare the average seasonal cycle of many years we would expect a difference to accumulate after a number of months, each missing 0.2 ppm. The International Energy Agency expects global CO2 emissions to drop by 8% this year. Clearly, we cannot see a global effect like that in less than a year. CO2 would continue to increase at almost the same rate, which illustrates that to tackle our global heating emergency aggressive investments need to be made in alternative energy sources.
“Most of the emissions come from urban areas, so that it may be easier to see lowered emissions downwind of cities, although also in that case they need to stand out from natural variations. Only measurements of carbon-14 in CO2 would enable us to cleanly separate fossil sources of CO2 from ecosystem sources and sinks regardless of how variable the latter are.
East Coast Outflow COVID-19
“In April 2020, the Global Monitoring Laboratory launched a series of aerial sampling flights over major East Coast metropolitan areas, repeating an experiment conducted two years ago, to assess the impact of coronavirus response on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.
“East Coast Outflow COVID-19 replicates a series of flights in 2018 encircling the cities of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, and Boston, MA, to measure levels of methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ethane and ozone upwind and downwind of these urban areas. Methane and carbon dioxide are the two of the most important greenhouse gases produced from urban centers, while carbon monoxide is a precursor to ground-level ozone, a primary concern for urban air quality.
“The goal of this repeat study was to see what has changed in emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants that form since the onset of COVID-19.
“So far, NOAA contractors and collaborators have completed ten flights around New York City, four flights around the Washington and Baltimore areas, and four flights around the Providence and Boston areas.
“Funding for the flights has been provided by NOAA, the state of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards.
“Scientists from NOAA’s Chemical Sciences and Air Resources laboratories are also participating in the experiment as well as researchers from the University of Michigan, Columbia University, University of Maryland and SUNY Stonybrook…”
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