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Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

High-resolution mapping of motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions

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Abstract

A fuel-based inventory for vehicle emissions is presented for carbon dioxide (CO2) and mapped at various spatial resolutions (10 km, 4 km, 1 km, and 500 m) using fuel sales and traffic count data. The mapping is done separately for gasoline-powered vehicles and heavy-duty diesel trucks. Emission estimates from this study are compared with the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and VULCAN. All three inventories agree at the national level within 5%. EDGAR uses road density as a surrogate to apportion vehicle emissions, which leads to 20–80% overestimates of on-road CO2 emissions in the largest U.S. cities. High-resolution emission maps are presented for Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco-San Jose, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Sharp emission gradients that exist near major highways are not apparent when emissions are mapped at 10 km resolution. High CO2 emission fluxes over highways become apparent at grid resolutions of 1 km and finer. Temporal variations in vehicle emissions are characterized using extensive day- and time-specific traffic count data and are described over diurnal, day of week, and seasonal time scales. Clear differences are observed when comparing light- and heavy-duty vehicle traffic patterns and comparing urban and rural areas. Decadal emission trends were analyzed from 2000 to 2007 when traffic volumes were increasing and a more recent period (2007–2010) when traffic volumes declined due to recession. We found large nonuniform changes in on-road CO2 emissions over a period of ~5 years, highlighting the importance of timely updates to motor vehicle emission inventories.

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