SkyGas: Development of a new technique for determining watershed/airshed gas fluxes

Philip Ineson
SkyGas: Development of a new technique for determining watershed/airshed gas fluxes
This is a Full Scientific Report resulting from NERC Geophysical Equipment Facility Loan 979, principal investigator Prof Philip Ineson.


As part of the NERC Macronutrient Cycles Programme (MCP), a small pump-priming grant was awarded to the University of York for the construction of a prototype ‘SkyGas’ system. The concept behind this Technology Development grant was to construct a prototype ‘fly-by-wire’ automated system for monitoring terrestrial greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes; a ‘world first’ that, if successful, could contribute significantly to the NERC strategy on climate change research. The concept was to build a field system (30 m x 30 m) for automated monitoring of GHG fluxes from land and water surfaces, developing entirely new technologies. Close collaboration between the Electronics and Biology Departments at York have resulted in such a prototype SkyGas system being successfully constructed on York campus and, after initial commissioning of the equipment, the electronic engineers suggested that both the accuracy and operation of the system may be greatly enhanced by incorporating capability for locating the moving ‘chamber head’ in real time using, for example, advanced differential GPS capability. For this reason a request for a GEF loan of two GX1230 Differential GPSs was made to test the extent to which incorporation of GPS technology could improve the building and ‘flight’ control for this new SkyGas technology. After discussion with the GEF team we requested, and were subsequently loaned, two GPS systems together with training in their use. During the loan it became clear that performance of the prototype SkyGas system would not benefit significantly from the incorporation of high resolution GPS, but it was obvious that GPS (or laser control) could be extremely useful when moving on from this prototype to planned larger, full size (football pitch scale) installations. The equipment loan was essential in showing the potential for incorporation of GPS technology into future up-scaled SkyGas systems.

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