Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions independently


Mistakes can happen when estimating emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Researchers funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation have developed a method to independently validate national statistics.

The signatory countries of the Kyoto Protocol and the new Paris Agreement have committed to reduce global warming. The countries themselves use estimates and projections to verify whether they are actually achieving the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases.

The uncertainties are considerable and mistakes do happen. Researchers funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) have developed a method to independently monitor these statistics by making direct measurements of the gases in the atmosphere (*).

Hardly any natural gas pipeline leaks

Researchers at Empa in Dübendorf, the University of Bern and ETH Zurich combined the data measured for methane (CH4) with a transport model for air pollutants in Switzerland. The result: The values for 2013 diverged only marginally from the figures published by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and confirmed the estimated annual emission of approximately 200,000 tonnes of methane.

The proportion of methane emissions caused by livestock farming, contributing the lion's share of 70 percent, was found to be somewhat lower than previously estimated. On the other hand, it was confirmed that gas pipeline leaks in Switzerland’s towns and cities were only a minor source of methane. The assumptions here had always been highly uncertain. Surprisingly, the volume of methane emissions in north-eastern Switzerland was higher than assumed.

“We are now planning a measurement campaign closer to the relevant areas to verify whether the difference is actually real,” says Dominik Brunner, atmospheric physicist and study leader at Empa.

For the model simulations, Brunner and his colleagues integrated data from two new measuring stations (installed specifically for the project) on the Lägeren mountain near Baden and on the former radio transmission tower at Beromünster (canton of Lucerne), as well as data from two more locations on the Swiss plateau. A small number of locations were sufficient for determining methane emissions in Switzerland since, thanks to the weather model of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), the intricate trajectories of air parcels can be traced back several days across to the Atlantic.

Widening the European monitoring network

“We have improved on the resolution of the inverse modelling already applied to larger areas such as the USA and scaled it to Switzerland's challenging topography,” remarks Stephan Henne, the first author of the study. The FOEN plans to publish the study as an annex to Switzerland’s latest greenhouse gas inventory on 15 April 2016. This makes Switzerland one of only three countries, including the UK and Australia, to publish an independent validation of its figures.

The project CarboCount-CH can be considered a pilot for the pan-European observation network “Integrated Carbon Observation System” (ICOS), which is currently being set up to monitor greenhouse gas emission at the European scale. Henne: “Our next CarboCount-CH project will be an investigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake by vegetation.”

(*) S. Henne, D. Brunner, B. Oney, M. Leuenberger et al. (2015). Validation of the Swiss methane emission inventory by atmospheric observations and inverse modelling. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. (Open Access)

Project on the database P3

Contact details
Dr Dominik Brunner
Laboratory for Air Pollution/Environmental Technology
Empa Dübendorf
Tel.: +41 58 765 4944

The text of this press release is available on the website of the Swiss National Science Foundation:  > Research in Focus > Media > Press releases

Weitere Informationen:

Media - Abteilung Kommunikation | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>