Volatile organic compounds contribute to global warming and new methodology is needed to better track atmospheric trends
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are indirect greenhouse gases (GHGs) and understanding atmospheric levels is important to help combat climate change. VOCs are precursors of ozone and aerosols that contribute to radiative forcing, warming the planet. Some are present at low levels in the atmosphere, down to parts-per-trillion (pmol/mol) or lack reference materials required for SI-traceability. Some types are also highly reactive, adsorbing onto surfaces, affecting sampling measurements, but remote sensing methods with the potential to overcome this issue currently lack SI-traceable spectral parameters.
Building on EMRP projects KEY‑VOCS and HIGHGAS the project has addressed measurement uncertainty for selected VOCs. New accurate, primary reference gas mixtures have been developed for most oxy-VOCs, terpenes and halogenated VOCs with validated protocols to allow the generation of working gas standards. In situ sampling methods were evaluated and spectral molecular parameters for remote sensing methods determined. The new methods and materials will help air monitoring networks generate the sound data required to assess air quality trends, supporting policy makers and regulators to put in place more effective measures to counter climate change.