Just where is all that global warming pollution coming from?
The Northeast pumps out an awful lot of carbon dioxide, but the Southeast, Midwest and Southern California are also responsible for voluminous pollution that billows out each day.
The precise sources of carbon dioxide emissions have now been mapped, with 100 times more detail than was previously available, by Vulcan project researchers at Purdue University.
The high-resolution, interactive maps combine carbon dioxide emissions data from power plants, factories and vehicles. The maps and movies compare the relative contribution of pollution from various parts of the country on an hourly basis. One of the most striking things one sees when watching the animations is the day-night "breathing" cycle of our pollution, with a long exhale of pollution all day, followed by a sharp decline each night. Seasonal spikes such as those when hot days prompt millions of Americans to turn up their air conditioners are also evident.
The maps also highlight an important political reality: While states in the Northeast, upper Midwest and West have agreed to state-level compacts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the nation's pollution won't be significantly cut until the South joins in. Depending on the estimate, the U.S. is the world's biggest, or second-biggest (next to China) producer of greenhouse gas emissions; it produces 25% of the world's carbon dioxide pollution, the key ingredient in atmospheric change fueling global warming.
"Before now the only thing policy-makers could do was take a big blunt tool and bang the U.S. economy with it," said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science at Purdue University and leader of the project. "Now we have more quantifiable information about what is happening in neighborhoods, on roads and in industrial areas, and track the CO2 by the hour. This offers policy-makers something akin to a scalpel instead."
You can look up data for your county and state here.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.