Search

Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

NOAA’s observations help EPA track emissions of a family of greenhouse gases
Theo Stein
/ Categories: Research Headlines, Climate

NOAA’s observations help EPA track emissions of a family of greenhouse gases

For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using NOAA atmospheric measurements to help support a national inventory of emissions from an important family of greenhouse gases.

Image
This graph depicts the rapid rise in the super-potent greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon-134, one of a family of gases developed developed to replace industrial chemicals responsible for destroying ozone in the stratosphere and creating the annual ozone hole over Antarctica. While less damaging to the ozone layer, man-made HFCs are super-potent greenhouse gases in their own right. Measurements are in parts per trillion. Credit: Global Monitoring Laboratory

The family of gases, called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, were developed to replace industrial chemicals responsible for destroying ozone in the stratosphere and creating the annual ozone hole over Antarctica. While less damaging to the ozone layer, man-made HFCs are super-potent greenhouse gases in their own right. As ozone-destroying predecessors like chlorofluorocarbons - also potent greenhouse gases - have been phased out, HFC emissions and their concentrations in the atmosphere have increased dramatically. Because of HFCs’ growing climate impact, the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol has established a schedule for the international phase-down of their future production and consumption. In the U.S., the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 calls for an 85% reduction in HFC production and consumption by 2036.

Estimating emissions: Top down and bottom up

Greenhouse gas emissions estimates are generally calculated by one of two primary types of methods. “Bottom up” inventories are generally developed through an accounting of all activities that generate emissions, the application of measurement-based or model-based emissions factors to those activities, and use of facility-specific data, where available.This is the approach used by the EPA and basis for reporting national emissions and sinks annually to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  

Image
The Global Monitoring Laboratory's new Emission Tracker provides emission magnitudes for certain potent greenhouse gases, such as replacements for ozone-destroying synthetic chemicals, derived from atmospheric measurements at sites across the U.S. This graph shows regional emissions trends for HFC-134 in parts per trillion. Credit: Global Monitoring Laboratory

 Greenhouse gas emissions can also be estimated by careful measurements of atmospheric samples collected downwind of a source region. This method is known as “atmosphere-based” or “top down,”and is a standard research approach used by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory.

This year, EPA has included a comparison of NOAA’s atmospheric emission estimates of four HFCs to its own inventory-based estimates in the just-released U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, based on results first reported in the 2017 Geophysical Research Letters study by a team that included scientists from NOAA, CIRES, EPA, and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratories.   

“The comparisons show reasonable consistencies between the two independently derived estimates, suggesting a robust understanding of HFC emissions,” said Lei Hu, CIRES scientist at the Global Monitoring Laboratory who leads a team supplying the atmosphere-based estimates. “Where we see differences, further analysis will be beneficial.” 

HFCs well-suited for comparing inventory-based and atmosphere-based estimates

Image
This gas chromatograph with mass spectrometry detection instrument, located at the Global Monitoring Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, is used to measure the concentrations of halocarbons such as HFCs in air samples captured at sites across the globe and the U.S. Credit: Global Monitoring Laboratory

Accurate estimates of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are important for understanding contributions to climate change, and for evaluating the effectiveness of emissions reduction activities. While “top down” and “bottom up” approaches each have limitations, they can complement each other and comparisons can help target measurement or data collection improvements. Improved understanding of GHG emissions helps provide policymakers guidance when developing and assessing emission reduction strategies. 

HFCs are some of the most suitable greenhouse gases for comparisons between the bottom-up inventory and atmosphere-based estimates because they are engineered chemicals with no natural sources, and they persist in the atmosphere, which reduces the complexity of estimating emissions.  

“Interagency collaboration strengthens our collective abilities to quantify HFC emissions in the U.S.,” said Ariel Stein, the director of the Global Monitoring Laboratory. “We look forward to more opportunities to work together in understanding emissive processes and guiding emission reductions.”

The HFC emission estimates have recently been incorporated into the Global Monitoring Laboratory's new Emission Tracker web page, which provides atmosphere-based estimates at national and regional levels for 2008-2014 for HFCs and several other synthetic gases. NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory plans to continue to provide national- and global-scale observations of the atmosphere and build tools that guide informed decisions for a Climate Ready Nation.

For more information, contact Theo Stein, NOAA Communications, at theo.stein@noaa.gov. 

Previous Article Celebrate Earth Day with NOAA scientists
Next Article Flash floods will increase across the United States, new research suggests
Print
3751

x

Popular Research News

Study: Reducing human-caused air pollution in North America & Europe brings surprise result: more hurricanes

Study: Reducing human-caused air pollution in North America & Europe brings surprise result: more hurricanes Read more

A new NOAA study published today in the journal Science Advances about four decades of tropical cyclones reveals the surprising result that reducing particulate air pollution in Europe and North America has contributed to an increase in the number of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic basin and a decrease in the number of these storms in the Southern Hemisphere. The study also found that the growth of particulate pollution in Asia has contributed to fewer tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific basin. 

Greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49% more heat in 2021 than in 1990, NOAA finds

Greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49% more heat in 2021 than in 1990, NOAA finds Read more

The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index serves as a measure of global society's progress - or lack of progress - in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Projected increase in space travel may damage ozone layer

Projected increase in space travel may damage ozone layer Read more

Scientists from NOAA and The Aerospace Corp. modeled the climate response of the stratosphere to increased future emissions of black carbon from rockets burning kerosene fuel.

NOAA’s observations help EPA track emissions of a family of greenhouse gases

NOAA’s observations help EPA track emissions of a family of greenhouse gases Read more

NOAA atmospheric measurements are helping to support a national inventory of emissions from an important family of greenhouse gases.

NOAA wind forecasts result in $150 million in energy savings every year

NOAA wind forecasts result in $150 million in energy savings every year Read more

Accurate, high resolution weather forecasts equate to cost savings across many different industries, but it is not always clear exactly what those cost savings are.

RSS
«July 2022»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
262728293012
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31123456

OAR HEADQUARTERS

Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected

ABOUT US

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.

CONTACT US

Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Copyright 2018 by NOAA Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top