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Professor Jeong Contributes to Research on Climate Change

Sep 18, 2019

Profesor Jeong Su Jong
Profesor Jeong Su Jong

Professor Jeong Su Jong of the SNU Graduate School of Environmental Studies recently collaborated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to calculate the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration levels in major cities around the world. The results were published in the August 2019 edition of Remote Sensing of Environment, an international science journal. The project was funded by the Korea Meteorological Administration.

CO2, a major cause of climate change, can be attributed in large part to human activity. An analysis of carbon emission revealed that approximately 70% of the increase in annual carbon emissions was caused by metropolitan cities. Until Professor Jeong’s study, scientists had yet to determine, however, direct urban contributions to this increase as well as the exact CO2 concentration levels in such areas.

Professor Jeong and his team created a method to measure and compare the “urban enhancement” of CO2 in large cities around the world. Using data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), NASA’s first CO2 observation satellite, the team measured CO2 levels through local emissions in urban areas from 2014 to 2018. This differed from the pre-existing method of relying on measurements from atmospheric transport, which is not a localized phenomenon.

The results found the CO2 concentration levels in Seoul to be 1.47 ± 1.72 ppm, comparable to those of Guangzhou (1.48 ± 1.11 ppm) of the Pearl Delta Region, one of the largest industrial areas in China. Other cities measured included Los Angeles (2.04 ± 0.91 ppm), Tehran (1.94 ± 1.54 ppm) and Houston (1.50 ± 0.72 ppm).

The results of the study indicate that large cities have a direct impact on climate change. High levels of greenhouse gases also indicate high levels of fine dust as they both consist of the same CO2 matter. In this regard, the high CO2 levels in cities have implications for both climate change and air quality.

Prior to this study, many countries estimated their CO2 emission levels using inventory or statically compiled data. Following Professor Jeong’s study, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended that cities should change their practices by analyzing direct sources of CO2.

While the US, Japan, the European Union, and China are closely monitoring greenhouse gases using their own satellites, Korea currently uses data from satellites belonging to the US and Japan and has difficulty acquiring all the necessary data. Experts have noted the need for Korea to monitor its own greenhouse gases either by securing its own satellites or by expanding upon source-based observation of emissions.

Written by Yu Young Jin, SNU English Editor
Reviewed by Professor Travis Lamar Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations,