The Vulcan Project
The United States has been classified as having the largest amount of carbon dioxide emissions, compromising one quarter of the total emissions in the world (Hopwood & Cohen, 2010). In the wake of a serious increase in carbon dioxide emissions, scientists at Purdue University, led by Kevin Gurney, decided to create a project that would be incorporated into Google Earth, to measure the carbon dioxide emissions in metric tons on an hourly basis.
An atmospheric scientist, as well as an ecologist specializing in the general region of “global change,” Gurney was propelled by his interest to see the “quantification and characterization of the global carbon cycle, [particularly] exchanges of CO2 with the terrestrial biosphere and the fossil fuel sources of CO2 to the atmosphere” (Carbon Group, 2010). Gurney approached scientists and researchers from Colorado State University and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with additional help from researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to collaborate with him in order to create the Vulcan Project.
Kevin Gurney, a scientist at Purdue University, initial came up with the idea for the Vulcan Project
Photo Credit: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/AmericanCarbon/images/kevin_gurney.jpg
The Vulcan Project is funded by NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), with some additional aid from the North American Carbon Program (NACP). Currently, the Vulcan Project KML consists of a detailed map of the United States, including Alaska, that features the breakdown of carbon dioxide emissions of multiple cities throughout the United States, categorizing the total for each city into the following categories: aircraft, cement, commercial, commercial, electric productivity, industrial, non-road transport, on-road transport and residential. The KML can be viewed at the following address: http://www.purdue.edu/eas/carbon/vulcan/GEarth/index.html. Scientists intend to make the map more detailed, however, they have no intention of expanding their KML to include carbon dioxide emissions maps of any other countries, solely the United States.
Electricity, one of categories depicted in the Vulcan Project map, has been quantified as the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions within the United States. Electricity, another category and a main component of residential and commercial CO2 emissions, is problematic due to the fact that large amounts of fuel are combusted in order to heat and cool homes and buildings. Combustion, or burning of fossil fuels results in serious carbon dioxide emissions, thus electricity is the number one contributor to emissions in the United States.
The above images are all taken from the Google Earth Vulcan Project KML. This is exactly how the map of the United States appears on the Google Earth.
The second largest contributor to CO2 emissions in the United States is transport because all energy is from some form or byproduct of petroleum. Both non-road and on-road transportation require fuel, and therefore can be classified within the transport category. The industrial category of carbon dioxide emissions is the sole source of direct onsite emissions. These processes tend to include the production category such as the production of minerals, the production of metals, chemical production, as well as consumption of petroleum products in feedstocks and end-uses.
Prior to the Vulcan Project, scientists were in possession of the annual estimates of carbon dioxide emissions at the national level, provided from the United Nations. In quantifying carbon dioxide emissions, demographers, social scientists and viewers of Google Earth will be able to utilize this Keyhole Markup Language (KML) of Google Earth that was named after the Roman god of fire. First released in 2008, the Vulcan Project revolutionized measurements of CO2 emissions, changing the capacity from population density, to the more specific scale of monthly, daily, and hourly emissions.