February 20, 2009

Google Earth’s ‘Vulcan’ Displays and Plots Carbon Emissions

Scientists revealed an interactive Google Earth map Thursday displaying carbon dioxide emissions released from fossil fuels across the United States.

The high-resolution map, available online at the website purdue.edu/eas/carbon/vulcan/GEarth, illustrates carbon dioxide emissions in tons over both residential and commercial regions by state, county or per capita.

Nicknamed "Vulcan" after the Roman god of beneficial and hindering fire, the project, took three years to finish and calculates carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels like coal and gasoline.

It is simplifies emissions by the sectors accountable counting aircrafts, commercialization, electricity productions, industrial properties, residences and transports.

"This will bring emissions information into everyone's living room as a recognizable, accessible online experience," stated Kevin Gurney, the head of the research project and an assistant professor at Purdue University.

"We hope to eventually turn it into an interactive space where the public will feed information into the system to create an even finer picture of emissions down to the street and individual building level," he noted.

The United States is responsible for nearly 25 percent of worldwide greenhouse emissions of carbon dioxide, labeled by scientists as the most vital human-produced gas causative of global climate change.

Simon Ilyushchenko, an engineer at search engine juggernaut Google, and who contributed to the project, said "integrating the data with Google
Earth was a way to advance public understanding of fossil fuel energy usage."

"Dynamic maps of the data, broken down by the different sources of emissions, easily show where people burn more gasoline from driving or where they use more fuel for heating and cooling homes and businesses," he added.

Vulcan reviewed the carbon dioxide emissions levels taken from the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy. The most up date information available is from 2002, but the scientists hope to integrate the latest information that they can get.

In addition to Purdue, the project drew in researchers from both Colorado State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The Vulcan project was subsidized by NASA, the US Department of Energy, the Purdue Showalter Trust and Indianapolis-based Knauf Insulation.


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