Earth Networks, Scripps to deploy 100 carbon monitoring stations globally

Earth Networks, owner of the WeatherBug data collection system, plans to install and operate 100 monitoring stations globally to measure concentrations of greenhouse gases.

The Germantown, Maryland-based company, which today changed its name from AWS Convergence Technologies, said it will sell the information to governments, scientists and groups that use its weather information.

When completed over the next two years, the $25 million series of towers will be the most comprehensive measuring system for carbon dioxide and methane, two gases that scientists say contribute to global warming, said Earth Networks Chief Executive Officer Bob Marshall. Tools to measure other greenhouse gases may be added later.

“When carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, it gets carried by the weather,” Marshall said in an interview. “You can see where the gases are coming from, and whether it’s man-made or natural,” by testing the chemical makeup of observed gases.

Earth Networks will work with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to ensure that its data is accurate. There are a few dozen stations that monitor greenhouse gases around the world now, mostly operated by governments and universities. Scripps installed the first one in 1958, atop the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. It is still in operation.

Scientists and carbon traders typically rely on self-reported data from governments and businesses, based on consumption of fossil fuels, to determine how much a country or region is emitting.

“I don’t trust some governments to accurately measure their carbon inventories,” Scripps director Tony Haymet said in an interview. “We need these top-down measurements to verify.”

Earth Networks plans to initially install 50 monitoring stations in the U.S., 25 in Europe, and 25 in locations that haven’t been determined yet. Two are already in operation, at the Scripps laboratory in La Jolla, California, and on the eastern shore of Maryland, near Baltimore and Washington, Marshall said. The stations use equipment from Picarro Inc. of Sunnyvale, California.

On Jan. 10, there was a “fairly moderate” concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, he said yesterday. “Today, the wind has shifted to the south, and carbon measurements are significantly higher because of all the pollution coming from Baltimore.”

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