Joost de Gouw
Ph.D. in Physics, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 1994
Senior Research Scientist
Emissions, chemistry and loss processes of organic carbon in both the gas and particle phases in the Earth's atmosphere. The atmospheric formation of secondary pollutants such as ozone and aerosol and their influence on air quality and climate. Development and use of mass spectrometric and other methods for measurements of volatile organic compounds.
Current Research: Sources and chemistry of organic carbon in the atmosphere
Concerns over climate change, fossil fuel resources, and energy security have all led to recent changes in the U.S. energy supply and infrastructure. For example, the production of natural gas from shale formations has grown strongly during the last decade. Also, ethanol made from corn has been used increasingly as a transportation fuel. In our research, we study how these changes in our energy use are affecting the atmosphere. Measurements in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado and in the Uintah Basin in Utah have clearly shown the presence of hydrocarbons associated with naturalgas production in the atmosphere. We found small alkanes, in particular, to be strongly elevated and much higher than in other areas with significant urban and/or industrial development such as Los Angeles and Houston. Because of their high concentrations in Colorado, we found that the alkanes associated with natural-gas production can provide significant fuel for ground-level ozone formation, outweighing the contributions from other sources such as cars and trucks. In the Uintah Basin, because of the unique meteorology in the winter, the emissions associated with oil and natural-gas production can get trapped under very strong inversions and react chemically to form ground-level ozone. Ozone pollution is typically a summertime phenomenon that is most efficient when it is warm, sunny, and humid. In sharp contrast, ozone in the Uintah Basin formed most efficiently when it was extremely cold and dry. The scientific understanding of these chemical processes is very limited, and research is in progress to improve the understanding. During the last decade, corn ethanol has increasingly been used as a transportation fuel to the point where 10 percent of gasoline now consists of ethanol. As a result, the concentrations of ethanol in the atmosphere have increased. We have used our measurements to analyze the effects this increase has had on air quality. Also we are interested in the other atmospheric emissions that are associated with the increased use of corn ethanol, notably emissions from the growing of corn plants and from biorefineries that produce ethanol out of corn.
Honors and Awards
- Editor of JGR Atmospheres