"Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and elsewhere are turning the entire Los Angeles metro region into a state-of-the-art climate laboratory," reports John Metcalfe. "From the ridgeline [of Mount Wilson], they deploy a mechanical lung that senses airborne chemicals and a unique sunbeam analyzer that scans the skies over the Los Angeles Basin. At a sister site at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), researchers slice the clouds with a shimmering green laser, trap air samples in glass flasks, and stare at the sun with a massive mirrored contraption that looks like God’s own microscope."
"These folks are the foot soldiers in an ambitious, interagency initiative called the Megacities Carbon Project. They’ve been probing L.A.’s airspace for more than a year, with the help of big-name sponsors like the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Keck Institute for Space Studies, and the California Air Resources Board. If all goes well, by 2015 the Megacities crew and colleagues working on smaller cities such as Indianapolis and Boston will have pinned down a slippery piece of climate science: an empirical measurement of a city’s carbon footprint."
"The goal is to one day have a comprehensive network for sensing greenhouse gases in all the major cities across America or even the world. With that in place, an obvious application would be capping sources of fugitive emissions. An eagle-eyed satellite might detect roiling leaks in natural-gas pipes caused by aging infrastructure, or disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Then cities could prioritize repair crews accordingly."