Getting a Global View on the Biosphere’s Impact on Air Quality

Vegetation emits vast amounts of the isoprene – a reactive volatile organic compound (VOC) – into the atmosphere. The atmosphere's cleansing processes remove isoprene quickly but this can alter the capacity for the removal of other trace gases such as methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the presence of nitrogen oxides (compounds formed in combustion processes) isoprene is a precursor for ground-level ozone pollution and it contributes to aerosol particles.

Estimates of the global emission of isoprene is based on a limited number of measurements from relatively few plant species from a variety of vegetation classes. Ecosystem scale measurements of isoprene emissions are a bottom-up approach to tackle the uncertainties involved on a local and regional scale. A new study led by Dylan Millet and Kelley Wells (University of Minnesota) and published in Nature presents a method getting global measurements of isoprene using satellite-based spectral data. This method was developed using chemical modelling and machine learning. Isoprene in-situ measurement data from a large airborne atmospheric chemistry study (SENEX) provided by Martin Graus (ACINN; CIRES researcher at NOAA in Boulder at that time) were used to validate the new method.

The Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry group at ACINN led by Thomas Karl has been applying their expertise in fast measurements of isoprene and other VOC in various projects.

Publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2664-3

University articles:

Chemie der Erdatmosphäre aus dem Welt­raum beobachtbar

New insight on the impacts of Earth’s biosphere on air quality

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