Air Sampling Network
The Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases (CCGG) group at the Earth Systems Research Lab (ESRL) in Boulder, Colorado maintains a vast cooperative air sampling network of over 100 sites around the world, from the northern tip of Alaska to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and even to the snowy wastes of the South Pole in Antarctica. Samples are taken at various time intervals, but all air flask samples taken from each site end up back at the CCGG Boulder Central Facility at some point. The goal is to obtain a "map" of greenhouse gas concentrations throughout the world and from the Earth's surface to the top of the atmosphere. The map above shows the locations and types of sampling we do, which includes
- Surface Flasks taken once a week
- Aircraft that allow us to measure even higher into the atmosphere,
- Tall Towers where we can measure up to 450 m (1500 ft) into the atmosphere,
- and Observatories that take continuous measurements.
The CCGG group is in charge of monitoring the levels of greenhouse gases in the air around us. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, the major greenhouse gas, has been on the rise since the Industrial Age. It is our job as scientists to determine how much of the increase in CO2 is due to human activity, which cannot be determined without accurate data from locations all over the world. Each site in the sampling network is like a piece to a puzzle, you cannot determine the overall picture without enough puzzle pieces.