Environmental science & technology

Standards development of global warming gas species: methane, nitrous oxide, trichlorofluoromethane, and dichlorodifluoromethane.

PMID 15180066


Environmental scientists from federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and academia have long suspected that increasing anthropogenic inputs of various trace gases into the atmosphere can cause changes in the earth's climate and protective ozone layer. Nitrous oxide and methane, cited in the Kyoto Protocol, as well astrichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) and dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12), cited in the Montreal Protocol, are all greenhouse gases and are implicated in the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer. The lack of national standards prompted research to determine the feasibility of preparing accurate and stable standards containing these four compounds. Development of these standards would support the measurement of these species by those in the atmospheric research community not having their own source of standards. A suite of eight primary gas standards containing methane, nitrous oxide, CFC-11, and CFC-12 in a balance of air were prepared gravimetrically to bracket the ambient atmospheric concentrations. The combined uncertainties (uc) were calculated from error propagation analysis that included the weighing data from the gravimetric preparation and other sources of error such as the purity analysis of the compounds and air matrix. The expanded uncertainties (U) for the gravimetric standards were < 0.5% as calculated from the equation U = kuc, where the coverage factor k is equal to 2 for a 95% confidence interval. Analyses of the suite of standards by gas chromatography with flame-ionization and electron capture detection resulted in average absolute residuals of < 0.25% from regression models. The NIST suite of eight gravimetric standards was used to determine the concentrations in two standardsfrom NOAA. Those analyses resulted in bias across the two laboratories of < or = 2.1%.