Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

overhead graphic representing a map. Callout circles that show sensor devices on the top of a building and on a radio tower.

Greenhouse Gas Measurements


The NIST Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Measurements Program develops advanced tools and standards for accurately measuring GHG emissions so industries and governments will have the information they need to manage emissions effectively. 

NIST Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program
NIST Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program
NIST’s Greenhouse Gas Measurements Program develops advanced tools for accurately measuring emissions so industries and governments will have the information they need to manage emissions effectively.

Promoting Innovation

Currently, most emissions estimates are based on indirect economic measures, such as the number of vehicle-miles traveled. The NIST GHG Measurements Program is developing technologies to measure emissions directly based on atmospheric observations from satellites, aircraft, and Earth’s surface. By combining economic data with atmospheric observations, scientists will be able to provide stakeholders with emissions estimates that are more accurate, and have lower uncertainties, than either approach used alone.

A Focus on Cities

Urban areas are home to roughly half the world’s population, and they account for more than half of total fossil fuel emissions. For this reason, we have established a system of three Urban Test Beds—areas where scientists are developing advanced technologies for directly measuring emissions at small scales in space and time. This will make it possible to attribute emissions to specific sources such as individual neighborhoods, traffic corridors, or landfills, and to observe how those emissions change over daily and seasonal cycles. This high-resolution information will give stakeholders the timely, accurate information they need to more effectively manage emissions.

A Trusted Third Party

When you buy a gallon of gas or a pound of sugar, you can be confident that you’re getting what you paid for in part thanks to measurement standards developed at NIST. These standards are necessary for markets to function efficiently and for regulations to be implemented fairly. NIST is also developing measurement standards for GHG emissions that define, for instance, what constitutes a ton of emitted carbon. Because NIST is not a regulatory agency, we are able to work closely with other agencies and regulated industries to ensure that emission measurements are accurate, reliable, and standards-based.

The Research

Projects & Programs

Hyperspectral Image Projector (HIP)

Detecting climate data with remote sensing instruments, providing state-of-the-art surveillance imagery for security and defense, or getting the most out of

Smoke Stack Flow Measurement

Presently used methods to measure CO2 and other emissions from smoke stacks have errors of 20 % or more depending on the level of swirl in the flow. The


Landscape view of buildings and lasers scanning the atmosphere

NIST Laser ‘Comb’ Systems Now Measure All Primary Greenhouse Gases in the Air

Still from animation shows map with icons of buildings, airplane, satellite tower.

Carbon Dioxide Sensors in 2 Urban Areas Registered Big Drop in Emissions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Man standing next to equipment on top of building during a sunset.

Commerce Building Now Part of NOAA, NIST Weather and Greenhouse Gas Tracking Network