Atmospheric Observations and Models of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Urban Environments
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CitationMcKain, Kathryn. 2015. Atmospheric Observations and Models of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Urban Environments. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractGreenhouse gas emission magnitudes, trends, and source contributions are highly uncertain, particularly at sub-national scales. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, one potential strategy for reducing these uncertainties is to focus atmospheric greenhouse gas measurements in urban areas, where a multitude of emission processes occur, imposing a strong and persistent gradient in the local atmosphere, and contributing a significant fraction of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
This thesis explores the capabilities and requirements for characterizing and quantifying greenhouse gas fluxes in urban environments using atmospheric measurements and models. The first chapter uses an existing dataset of atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements from Salt Lake City, Utah to assess the capacity of an atmospheric measurement and modeling framework to detect changes in emissions from a city in the context of an emissions verification framework. The results of this work are then used to explore an alternative or complementary measurement strategy of atmospheric column measurements for urban emissions detection, which would be less sensitive than point measurements to the large variability present in urban atmospheres, but would also have more stringent accuracy requirements.
The second chapter describes the development and maintenance of a network of greenhouse gas measurement stations in the Boston urban region, which has been continuously running since 2012 and has generated high-quality atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane data that can be used to explore their fluxes across the urban region. The third chapter applies the Boston network data to investigate the magnitude of methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure in the urban region. We find that the natural gas loss rate in 2012-13 was 2.7 ± 0.6 %, two to three times larger than that reported by industry and government. Our findings suggest that natural gas consuming regions may be larger sources of methane than previously thought, and have implications for local and national policies that aim to reduce methane emissions and promote energy-use efficiency. The work presented in this thesis explores general methodological strategies for urban atmospheric measurements and models, and offers example applications of such methods to directed and societally-relevant investigations of urban greenhouse gas emissions.
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