Diana Hsueh at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues collected corn from nearly 70 locations in the United States and Canada. They found that the Ohio Valley and California had the most fossil-fuel-emitted carbon dioxide, while the Colorado region had the least.
This method of measuring carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, can help atmospheric scientists better understand where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is located and how it mixes and moves in the air. Plants, the researchers say, provide a cost-effective way to record average daytime conditions over several months, as they take in carbon dioxide gas during photosynthesis, and it becomes part of the plant tissue. Their report will be published 23 January in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The scientists chose corn, because it is widely grown and, as an annual plant, all of its carbon is derived from a single growing season. They avoided pollution point sources, such as highways and power plants, to allow for mapping of regional patterns across various states and provinces. In the laboratory, they dried samples of corn leaves and husks and chemically converted them into graphite. They then analyzed the graphite in a mass spectrometer, which measured levels of radiocarbon, a rare isotope of carbon.
Carbon dioxide derived from fossil fuels contains no radiocarbon, so it is easily distinguishable from other sources. With measurements from the mass spectrometer, the scientists calculated overall levels of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels at the locations where the corn samples were collected.
The scientists had expected carbon dioxide from California and other western coastal states to drift eastward, but they found that the Rocky Mountains appeared to provide a barrier. Air in the Mountain West, including Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico, had the lowest carbon dioxide, about 370 parts per million. Air in the Eastern United States, which includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, contained an additional 2.7 parts per million of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel sources.
Air in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia had nearly twice as much additional carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, 4.3 parts per million.
"Many nations are facing increasing pressure to monitor and regulate the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel sources to limit greenhouse gas warming," said James Randerson, a co-author of the study. "This method can help determine how much fossil fuel carbon dioxide is coming from different regions."
"We have to better understand emission patterns and changes in the atmosphere in order to better regulate fossil fuels," said Susan Trumbore, another co-author of the study. "This is a direct way to measure the release of carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate warming."
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.
Peter Weiss | AGU
Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen
The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences