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Track CO2 Emissions on Google Earth

4/13/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: carbon emissions, CO2, emissions, global warming

We all know that carbon dioxide emissions are a major cause of global warming. Now, we can pinpoint exactly where the problem is concentrated. Google Earth recently launched Vulcan, a map of U.S. CO2 emissions. The program, funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, indicates fossil fuel pollution pockets throughout the country as well as individual states’ emissions.

Google Earth allows you to look at different geographic locations across the globe. Now, Google Earth tracks carbon dioxide emissions. Photo By Moontan/Courtesy Flickr. 

Purdue University scientists developed Vulcan, which highlights CO2 caused by fossil fuels in a color spectrum key, from red (highest) to dark blue (little to no CO2 emissions). Dr. Kevin Gurney, who led the Purdue research team, says the project is essential because the United States accounts for about 25 percent of CO2 emissions.

“We'll keep adding more information to enrich” Vulcan, Gurney says. “We hope to eventually get feedback from the public about energy use and activity that allows us to include even more detailed information.” Vulcan retrieves data from three sources and compiles it into the system; images are taken by NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite, CO2 levels are from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy and population records are from the Census Bureau. Currently the Vulcan projects 2002 data, but Gurney plans to cover current years and fill in information from 1985 to show how U.S. CO2 emissions have grown.

Gurney’s team will expand the program to Mexico and Canada, and eventually more countries.

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