Measuring air quality is a tall order

In the wake of COP26, planning proposals are being put forward to build the UK’s first purpose-built tall tower for directly measuring greenhouse gas emissions from across Scotland - which will be used to judge the effectiveness of new policies.

The state-of-the-art facility proposed for James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm, near Dundee will enable the UK to monitor and so mitigate climate change by allowing scientists to measure the composition of greenhouse gases directl with the aim of modelling changes mathematically over the coming years.

The institute said that the £1m structure would collect air samples at the top of the 100m tower, where air arrives from right across Scotland on prevailing winds. Instruments and sensors at ground level can then measure concentrations of the gases responsible for climate change, and changes in the levels of these gases will be interpreted by scientists across the UK to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from the land.

JHI’s Dr Jagadeesh Yeluripati said that tracking whether emissions deviated from expected declines would provide an early indicator of whether actions and policies were having the required effect, allowing governments to adjust their plans.

Also involved in the project, Edinburgh University’s Dr Tim Arnold added: “Objective scientific evidence is needed to verify progress towards the net-zero emissions target.

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"Our state-of-the-art new monitoring system will aid in this verification by allowing the effect of Scotland’s climate actions to be monitored closely by continuous measurement of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

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