ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Fall 2010

Chinese Climate

ESRL hosts Chinese scientists working to build a national network of greenhouse gas measurements

How do you find leaks in a tank of precisely measured carbon dioxide? How often must instruments be calibrated, to ensure accuracy of atmospheric measurements?

A team of 16 meteorologists from the Chinese Meteorological Agency (CMA) visited ESRL in September, seeking answers to those and dozens of other questions. The delegation of scientists is hoping to expand CMA’s current network of five sites where CO2 and other greenhouse gases are measured consistently.

CMA’s Lingxi Zhou, who has worked closely with ESRL’s Global Monitoring Division for nearly a decade, set up the 10-day visit—the “Workshop on High-Accuracy Greenhouse Gas Measurements”—for her staff.

“She thought it was important for people at these five sites to see what we’re doing, and why,” said GMD’s Pieter Tans.

Tans and his colleagues spent days with the Chinese meteorologists, discussing greenhouse gas networks from the broadest of scales (the density of sites needed to address various research or policy questions) to the smallest (the need for precise, well calibrated reference gas standards against which to make measurements.)

Without careful and constant calibration of instruments, archiving of data, and ongoing comparisons between independent measurements, the results are not worth much, Tans said, and CMA is clearly interested in setting up a system of measurements that are credible nationally and internationally.

“It’s in our interest, too, to help them,” Tans said. “China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

Although the Chinese visitors sought advice and expertise from ESRL, they have some advantages over ESRL, Tans said, notably funding. “China is clearly making a large investment in new instruments,” he said. “They are buying very good instruments—but you also have to adopt the best procedures, and there, maybe we can help.”

GMD Director James Butler said that at the end of the workshop, a delegation of CMA signed an official agreement with NOAA to share data and cooperate on research.

More International Collaboration: India
A delegation of officials from the Indian Ministry of Environmental Science (MoES) also visited ESRL this fall. NOAA and MoES officials worked out the final details in an Implementation Agreement for NOAA to provide technical assistance setting up greenhouse gas measurements in India, and for the two-way exchange of air samples and data.