Aircraft-based measurements of the carbon footprint of Indianapolis

Kelly L. Mays, Paul B. Shepson, Brian H. Stirm, Anna Karion, Colm Sweeney, Kevin R. Gurney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


The quantification of greenhouse gas emissions requires high precision measurements made with high spatial resolution. Here we describe measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) conducted using Purdue University's Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR), aimed at the quantification of the "footprints" for these greenhouse gases for Indianapolis, IN. A cavity ring-down spectrometer measured atmospheric concentrations, and flask samples were obtained at various points for comparison. Coupled with pressure, temperature, and model-derived horizontal winds, these measurements allow for flux estimation. Long horizontal transects were flown perpendicular to the wind downwind of the city. Emissions were calculated using the wind speed and the difference between the concentration in the plume and the background concentration. A kriging method is applied to interpolate the measured values to a vertical plane traced out by the flight pattern within the mixed layer. Results show the urban plume is clearly distinguishable in the downwind concentrations for most flights. Additionally, there is large variability in the measured day-to-day emissions fluxes as well as in the relative CH4 and CO2 fluxes. Uncertainties in the method are discussed, and its potential utility in determining sector-based emission factors is shown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7816-7823
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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