Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Google Earth Map of CO2 Emissions in the US

This is a bummer:
A NASA satellite to track carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere failed to reach its orbit during launching Tuesday morning, scuttling the $278 million mission.

“It’s a huge disappointment to the entire team that’s worked very hard over years and years and really did their best to see it through,” said Charles P. Dovale, the launch manager. “The reason not everyone is able to do this is it’s hard. And even when you do the best you can, you can still fail. It’s a tough business.”
On the bright side, NASA and some Purdue scientists, working on something called the Vulcan Project, just launched a new Google Earth map that lets you see the amount of CO2 being emitted in the United States every hour. (The Purdue folks are the ones who put together this impressive map animation.) Here is a demonstration flyover:



It shows information about emissions at the state and county levels, and even gives information on specific source points, such as airports. It also breaks down emissions by sector, showing relative contributions from air traffic, electricity production, industry, commercial, transportation, and residential sources. It really does a good job of helping the viewer visualize carbon emissions - a sort of nebulous and abstract thing to try to think about - and that may prove to make it a very valuable tool in public efforts to decrease those emissions. You can download the Google Earth map at this site (though it ran a bit slow for me). And by the way, kudos to the Purdue folks for picking a badass name for their research project. You gotta know how to market this stuff, people!

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