Greenhouse gases

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere affects the temperature of the Earth: if this amount increases, the Earth will warm up. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution are the main cause of the changes that have been observed in the Earth’s temperature and climate (see AR4, WGI, IPCC, 2007). In Norway, NILU is the only institute that conducts continuous measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These measurements are conducted particularly at our observatories at Birkenes and Zeppelin, but also at Andøya.

The main greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are carbon dioxide, CO2, methane, CH4, a combined group of gases known as halocarbons, and nitrous oxide, N2O. The levels of all of these gases have increased significantly since 1750. The significance of these gases and how they have changed the Earth’s radiation balance is shown in this figure from the IPCC 4 Assessment Report.

Key activities at NILU associated with increasing our understanding of long-lived greenhouse gases:

  • Describing and understanding changes in regional, hemispheric and global levels of greenhouse gases
  • Understanding the atmospheric budget of the various greenhouse gases
  • Quantifying changes in emissions by the use of observational methods
  • Understanding the processes that affect the natural emissions and exchanges between the atmosphere, land and sea
  • Developing tools to examine whether various mitigation measures work as intended
  • Monitoring the evolution of greenhouse gases
  • Developing methods and instruments for more accurate measurements and measurements of other and new components
  • Contributing to the development of infrastructure that is adapted to future needs for the observation network, interpretation and analysis

    Many of the gases we measure are part of the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency’s national monitoring programme, and developments, trends and interpretations of these data are reported annually. A summary of measurement programmes for long-lived greenhouse gases measured at the Zeppelin, Andøya and Birkenes Observatories can be found on the webpages about the observatories. Most data are available from EBAS.

    Please feel free to contact us with questions about the data.

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