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Greenhouse Gas Measurements

Developing advanced measurement tools that support innovative approaches to monitoring and managing greenhouse gas emissions.

What We Do

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. 

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.

News and Updates

Industry Impacts

Low GHG Refrigerants

Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants are potent greenhouse gases (GHG) that are being phased down by the U.S. and 196 other countries under the Montreal

Projects and 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 Simulator

Today, inconsistencies between measured CO2 emissions and emissions calculated from coal consumption are on the order of 10% to 20%. The objective of this


Fluxes of Atmospheric Greenhouse-Gases in Maryland (FLAGG-MD): Emissions of Carbon Dioxide in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area

Doyeon Ahn, Jonathan R. Hansford, Shawn T. Howe, Xinrong R. Ren, Ross J. Salawitch, Ning Zeng, Mark D. Cohen, Barbara Stunder, Olivia E. Salmon, Paul B. Shepson, Kevin R. Gurney, Tomohiro Oda, Israel Lopez Coto, James R. Whetstone, Russel R. Dickerson
To study emissions of CO2 in the Baltimore-Washington, DC (Balt-Wash) area, an aircraft campaign was conducted in February 2015, as part of the FLAGG-MD (Fluxes

Greenhouse gas observations from the Northeast Corridor tower network

Anna Karion, William Callahan, Michael Stock, Steve Prinzivalli, Kristal R. Verhulst, Jooil Kim, Peter Salameh, Israel Lopez Coto, James R. Whetstone
We present the organization, structure, instrumentation, and measurements of the Northeast Corridor greenhouse gas observation network. This network of tower


David Long Honored with PECASE

The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to...