What’s a climate “model” and where does it come from?

Climate scientists can be divided into two large interactive groups: Experimentalists, who go out into the world and collect climate data (e.g., levels of carbon dioxide, methane concentration, seasonal temperature, snowfall rates, etc.); and Modelers, those who build computer simulations based on that data (called “climate models” by those in the know) to estimate how climate variables affect one another (e.g., does increasing CO2 increase temperature enough to melt polar ice caps that will raise sea levels so high that Miami will be the next Atlantis?).

June 22, 2011

How do you know rising carbon dioxide levels are from human activities?

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) is a product of human activities that use carbon-based fuels, such as home heating, cars, and manufacturing plants, to name a few. But CO2 also has many natural sources, such as soil, volcanoes and all living things that breathe. So a necessary question that should be asked by climate and citizen scientists alike is, “How do you know increases in CO2 are from human activity?”

June 16, 2011

RioTinto Alcan

QUEBEC, CANADA — We operate aluminum smelters. Our application for Picarro hydrogen fluoride (HF) analyzers is in our ambient air monitoring stations, monitoring ambient air quality at fenceline and in local communities for the protection of the environment and community health.

June 10, 2011

Picarro Aboard the Hesperides: Measuring Isotopic Carbon on a Historic Spanish Circumnavigation

The Malaspina Expedition may set the record for the most well-travelled Picarro analyzer. And we can't wait to see the science that emerges from this fascinating voyage. Here's the story. The research voyage marks the 200 Year Anniversary of the death of Alessandro Malaspina in 1810. Malaspina directed the first Spanish scientific expedition to circumnavigate the Earth.

June 2, 2011

Field Report: Measuring Carbon Fluxes with a 1500 Feet Tower and Avoiding Annoying Wildlife

One of the most interesting things we product managers get to do at Picarro is spend time in the field with customers learning how they use our analyzers. This way, we get to experience firsthand the challenges of doing science outdoors in remote locations - challenges like dealing with unpleasant wildlife (for example). Studying fluxes of greenhouse gases in the environment is definitely one of the areas where the full outdoor research experience is mandatory.

May 25, 2011

Grass-Fed, Corn-Fed and Where Do They Come From? Cows and Picarro

We have over time gotten a fair number of queries related to whether our CRDS analyzers can be used to determine whether an animal is corn-fed or grass-fed, and where that animal comes from. Consumers, restaurateurs, and food companies increasingly care a lot about what goes into the mouths of the meat they sell and whether that meat is local or from Brazil or Texas or wherever. Which is why we welcome the opportunity to discuss how stable isotopes can both determine if a cow has been grass-fed or corn-fed and, further, where that meat comes from.

May 22, 2011

CRDS 101: Undergraduates from San Jose State University Visit Picarro

Final Exam Question #17 – What is a Picarro and how does it work?As a Picarro sales engineer, I spend much of my time discussing our products with university professors, researchers, post-docs, Ph.D. candidates, grad students, etc. Picarro is connected to academia but we hadn't really connected yet with undegrads - the future scientists. That's changing.

May 11, 2011

Dauphin Island Sea Lab

DAUPHIN ISLAND, ALABAMA — My research program is broadly aimed at processes that influence the production and distribution of coastal marine plankton. The principal area of research that I am involved with is the ecology and biology of gelatinous zooplankton. I have recnetly been researching the impact of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill on plankton in the Gulf of Mexico.

May 9, 2011

Stable Isotopes and Marijuana: How U.S. Customs and Border Control Uses Picarro for Cannabis Analysis

I'm Nabil Saad and I'm a senior applications scientist at Picarro. I'll be blogging periodically about applications development around stable isotopes. There is a lot going on. So last month we delivered a brand new Picarro Combustion Module-Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer (CM-CRDS) to the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The initial purpose of the CM-CRDS was to smoke marijuana. No, really.

May 3, 2011

Apes in South East Asia: Stable Isotopes, Teeth, and Roaming About

Yet another article in PLoS One that uses stable isotopes to glean critical insights from fossils of long-dead animals. A mixed team including researchers from France, Thailand, Germany and Myanmar examined stable isotopes in the teeth of fossils of an extinct genus of horse called Hipparion found near the remains of a type of ape (a hominoid) to determine the nature of the environment when the creatures were alive.

April 24, 2011

We've Moved - Literally! Growing Out of Our Old Home and Into Our New One

The image you see here is Ed Wahl, the guy who runs all our QA and testing on analyzers posing as a proud papa with the first Picarro analyzer that we manufactured and shipped out of our brand new state-of-the-art facility. This one is going to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a new customer we are very excited about. They set all sorts of standards for how things are measured in the U.S. and what's considered acceptable in the world of measurement. As many of you know, we're growing very quickly.

April 15, 2011

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011 -- impressions

Several of us from Picarro spent a week in Vienna talking to scientists from all around the world. For those of us "manning the booth," conferences like EGU and AGU are both exciting and exhausting -- getting the instruments shipped, setting up the demonstrations, daily on our feet, engaged in conversations. You can see in the thumbnail picture here that it was busy -- it was like that all day, every day of the meeting.

April 13, 2011

Adding Carbon Monoxide to Attribute GHGs to Combustion (Fossil Fuels, Biomass)

Discussions on the topic of atmospheric research almost inevitably invoke some form of the question: What is the source? Talk to most atmospheric scientists about this question and usually one of the first things they will mention is the inherent difficulty in separating out man-made emissions from Mother Nature's normal, but complex cycles. Combustion engines and gas pipeline leaks release CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, but then again, so does the annual spring thaw in the Northern Hemisphere.

April 4, 2011

Picarro at EGU 2011 in Vienna: Three New Products, Three Recent Products, Lots of Great Customer Interaction

There are two big conferences that we pull out the stops on - the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco and the European Geoscience Union annual meeting in Vienna. This is EGU 2011 and we are on the floor (in Booth 49). Like other companies, we like to launch new products around these shows because its the best time to get guaranteed facetime with potential customers who are usually scattered around the globe.

April 4, 2011

IM-CRDS: Finally, A Better Way to Extract and Analyze Water Isotopes from Plant Leafs, Soils, Tissues - Precise Data in <5 Mins

At Picarro, we not only like to make great instruments but we also like to deliver real-world solutions to difficult problems facing scientists. Extracting water samples for isotopic analysis from plant leafs, stems, soils, small organisms and other small samples has been a difficult problem. Legacy technology required massive cryogenic distillation systems that occupy an entire lab bench, require a highly-skilled technician to process a sample, and also required a large sample volume to distill down. Oh, and the process took 90 minutes or more.

April 4, 2011