Atmospheric monitoring of greenhouse gases to challenge climate change

Monitoring the atmospheric trends of certain gases, and their contribution to climate change is significant when assessing the impact of policies to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Greenhouse emissions sources include transportation, electricity generation, use of fossil fuel for heat production, and industrial processes.

he major source of South Africa’s energy is fossil fuel (coal burning), causally related to our nation’s dependence on coal, placing electricity production as the largest contributor of total GHG emissions in South Africa.

The increase of atmospheric CO2 emissions, linked to global warming, is rapidly becoming a problem. The atmosphere is monitored through techniques such as infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography.

There is a need for accurate primary reference gas mixtures for greenhouse gases to provide reliable GHG emission data and to ensure that industries emitting above-set thresholds are held accountable.

NMISA has developed various national measurement standards for greenhouse gases and participated in various international comparisons focussing on greenhouse gases coordinated by the Consultative Committee for Amount of Substance-Gas Analysis Working Group (CCQM-GAWG).

In 2016, the laboratory participated in an international comparison for carbon dioxide in the air in the range of 380 to 800 μmol.mol-1 CCQM K120 (a & b) to demonstrate international measurement equivalence

Following the improved CO2 NMS, NMISA will continue to demonstrate preparative capabilities and provide accurate standards for reliable atmospheric CO2 emissions. The CO2 NMS supports the South African legislation on the reduction of CO2 through the Kyoto Protocol signed in 2002 an international treaty aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2.

To monitor the reduction of CO2 emissions traceable CO2 in air standards is required to calibrate instruments used for CO2 emission monitoring. Other recent international comparison includes preparative comparison for nitrous oxide in the air, CCQM K68.2019 at ambient between 325-350 nmol/mol which commenced in 2019 and still ongoing.

NMISA supports stakeholders reporting data to the World Meteorological Organisation- Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO-GAW) program monitoring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in the southern hemisphere which contributes to the global measurements and studies towards its influence towards climate change.

Long term emission monitoring based on accurate and stable standards ensure that emission data meets the requirements of the WMO compatibility goals and environmental policymakers. NMISA enables compliance to legislation and reliable reporting of emission measurements through the provision of reliable primary reference gas mixtures.

The Institute is mandated by the Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Act, 2006 (Act No. 18 of 2006) provides for the accuracy and international recognition of local measurement results. NMISA is part of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (dtic), a family of the Technical Infrastructure (TI) Institutes, which also include the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), National Regulator for Compulsory Specification (NRCS), and the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), that together provides for confidence in local goods and products and allows for successful prosecution in cases of non-compliance.

The accuracy of measurement results can be demonstrated by ensuring that these are traceable to the National Measurement Standards (Government Gazette No. 1131,19 October 2018) realised and maintained by NMISA.


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