Down in the Delta, about 20 miles south of Sacramento, is tiny little Walnut Grove, California – population, around 700. And a little bit east of there are a handful of really tall towers – TV towers, some 2,000 feet high. Now, there’s a new tenant:
“This equipment’s been installed just for the last month.”
That’s Marc Fischer with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He’s showing off a rack of fancy equipment that measures how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane are in the air we breathe each day.
“And then once a day we … send the data over the internet back to our laboratory for inspection and analysis.”
The Walnut Grove tower is one of two pilot projects in Northern California. That famous red TV tower you might have seen atop the San Francisco skyline is the other.
“By looking at the Bay Area to Sacramento Valley region, we capture both rural, suburban and urban areas.”
The state’s Energy Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, are funding the two California towers. And state officials want to extend the program to Southern California, if all goes well up here. Meanwhile, NOAA has five other tower sites around the country, with several more to come – money permitting, of course. Eventually, the technology could be used to measure such exotic, hard-to-reach places as the Amazon Forest. NOAA’s Arlyn Andrews says with just one month's data, the results are interesting.
“We’re already seeing some things in the data that we don’t understand. And that’s always a good sign – it means that there’s science to be done.”
The goal is that when policy-makers, researchers, or even the general public wants to know if we’re making progress on reducing carbon emissions, all we'll have to do is log online.