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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Citizen Science, Cyber-infrastructure and Carbon Dixoide Emissions

[Here are a couple of interesting sites demonstrating the power of grids, cyber-infrastructure, platforms and citizen science to measure the emission and absorption of carbon dioxide. The NOAA "Carbon Tracker" seeks volunteers to provide carbon dioxide measurements from around the globe and then uses that information integrated with a number of databases and computational models to assimilate the data and affects of forest fires, biosphere, ocean absorption etc. A similar project is the Canadian SAFORAH which has many objectives - of which one is to measure the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by Canadian forests. This cyber-infrastructure project also supports studies in bird habitat across Canada. It uses Globus Toolkit v.4 at all of the SAFORAH participating sites. Currently, four Canadian Forestry Centres located in Victoria British Columbia, Cornerbrook Newfoundland, Edmonton, Alberta and Laurentian Québec are operationally connected to the SAFORAH data grid. SAFORAH offers Grid-enabled OGC services which are used to increase interoperability of EO data between SAFORAH and other geospatial information systems. The Grid-enabled OGC services consist of the following main components: Grid-enabled Web Map Service (GWMS), Grid-enabled Web Coverage Service (GWCS), Grid-enabled Catalog Service for Web (GCSW), Grid-enabled Catalog Service Federation (GCSF), Control Grid Service (CGS) and the Standard Grid Service Interfaces and OGC Standard User Interfaces. Thanks to Erick Cecil and Hao Chen -- BSA]

For more information on SAFORAH please see

For more information on carbon tracker please see

A tool for Science, and Policy
CarbonTracker as a scientific tool will, together with long-term monitoring of atmospheric CO2, help improve our understanding of how carbon uptake and release from land ecosystems and oceans are responding to a changing climate, increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 (the CO2 fertilization effect) and other environmental changes, including human management of land and oceans. The open access to all CarbonTracker results means that anyone can scrutinize our work, suggest improvements, and profit from our efforts. This will accelerate the development of a tool that can monitor, diagnose, and possibly predict the behavior of the global carbon cycle, and the climate that is so intricately connected to it.

CarbonTracker can become a policy support tool too. Its ability to accurately quantify natural and anthropogenic emissions and uptake at regional scales is currently limited by a sparse observational network. With enough observations though, it will become possible to keep track of regional emissions, including those from fossil fuel use, over long periods of time. This will provide an independent check on emissions accounting, estimates of fossil fuel use based on economic inventories, and generally, feedback to policies aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This independent measure of effectiveness of any policy, provided by the atmosphere (where CO2 levels matter most!) itself is the bottom line in any mitigation strategy.

CarbonTracker is intended to be a tool for the community and we welcome feedback and collaboration from anyone interested. Our ability to accurately track carbon with more spatial and temporal detail is dependent on our collective ability to make enough measurements and to obtain enough air samples to characterize variability present in the atmospheric. For example, estimates suggest that observations from tall communication towers (>200m) can tell us about carbon uptake and emission over a radius of only several hundred kilometers. The map of observation sites shows how sparse the current network is. One way to join this effort is by contributing measurements. Regular air samples collected from the surface, towers or aircraft are needed. It would also be very fruitful to expand use of continuous measurements like the ones now being made on very tall (>200m) communications towers. Another way to join this effort is by volunteering flux estimates from your own work, to be run through CarbonTracker and assessed against atmospheric CO2. Please contact us if you would like to get involved and collaborate with us!

CarbonTracker uses many more continuous observations than previously taken. The largest concentration of observations for now is from within North America. The data are fed into a sophisticated computer model with 135 ecosystems and 11 ocean basins worldwide. The model calculates carbon release or uptake by oceans, wildfires, fossil fuel combustion, and the biosphere and transforms the data into a color-coded map of sources and storage "sinks." One of the system's most powerful assets is its ability to detect natural variations in carbon uptake and release by oceans and vegetation, which could either aid or counteract societies' efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions on a seasonal basis.