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Google Earth maps carbon dioxide emissions

February 19, 2009 |  6:25 pm


Scientists have developed an interactive map on Google Earth that shows fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions across the United States.

Users can view pollution levels from factories, power plants and residential and commercial areas in their state or county. They can also compare emission levels in their county with those of other counties in the U.S. The mapping system, called the Vulcan project, is based on 2002 data.

California, which has the second-highest level of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, emits 100 million tons of carbon every year, said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University. Gurney led the team of scientists who developed the project.

California is on track to increase its emissions by 30% over 1990 levels by 2020, but a climate plan recently adopted by the state's Air Resources Board would bring the levels down to 1990 levels in the next 12 years. Fossil-fuel emissions accelerate global warming and contribute to climate change, which could mean droughts, heat waves and increased wildfires.

The Vulcan project was a collaboration among researchers from Purdue, Colorado State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It was funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

-- Catherine Ho

Photo: A screen shot from the Vulcan project of carbon dioxide emissions for Orange County. Credit: Vulcan