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Greenhouse Gases and Aerosols Research and Monitoring

Environment Canada scientists undertake long-term systematic observations and research related to greenhouse gases and aerosols. These observations contribute to improved understanding of natural and anthropogenic sources, atmospheric processes related to climate, their role as forcing agents, and the relevant atmospheric-biogeochemical processes. The species and parameters monitored are:

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride
  • Hydrogen
  • δ13C in Carbon Dioxide
  • δ18O in Carbon Dioxide
  • Aerosol Scattering and Absorption
  • Aerosol Size and Number
  • Aerosol Chemistry
  • Organic and Elemental Carbon

The atmosphere is not fully transparent to solar radiation as greenhouse gases, aerosols, clouds and water vapour will either absorb energy (warming the atmosphere) or reflect energy (cooling the atmosphere). All of these are considered climate forcers, influencing the energy balance of the earth system.

The presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in an average global temperature of +15ºC. Without them, it would be about -18ºC. Pre-industrial carbon dioxide concentrations were about 280 ppm. In 2008, the global average was 385 ppm.

The IPCC 2007 Assessment notes that the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Environment Canada’s long term observations and science contribute to Canadian obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Articles 4: 1(g) and Article 5 on science and monitoring), the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch and Global Climate Observing System providing atmospheric composition and essential climate variables respectively, and contribute to the ongoing IPCC Assessments. The Alert Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory is one of the three global greenhouse gas inter-comparison sites (the two others are Mauna Loa USA and Cape Grim Australia), ensuring data comparability and accuracy world wide.

This section includes information on Environment Canada's measuring networks, changing levels of greenhouse gases, and access to data.