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HIGHRISE: Jeff Beck '10, left, holds a carbon dioxide analyzer inlet tube as he and classmate Gavin Bodkin '09, far right, participate in a student-run experiment April 15 at the Middletown Fire Department station on Church Street. The Middletown Fire Department allowed the Wesleyan students to use its 100-foot-tall ladder wagon so the students could collect measurements of pressure, temperature, elevation and carbon dioxide concentration every 10 feet up to 100 feet. Beck and Bodkin are students in the course, Global Climate Change, taught by Johan "Joop" Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science and chair of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

The class's carbon dioxide monitoring group measures carbon dioxide concentrations in the Middletown atmosphere through a hole in the windowsill at the fourth floor of Exley Science Center every half hour for several days in a row to study day-night variations in carbon dioxide  concentration. According to Varekamp, during the night, the concentrations tend to be higher and during mid day lower because of the thermal stratification in the atmosphere at night. The class decided to establish a profile of carbon dioxide concentration in the early morning (atmosphere stratified) and mid day (atmosphere better mixed) with the help of the Middletown fire department.

As a result of this study, the class found that in the morning, carbon dioxide concentrations slightly declined with elevation, while at midday, they found overall lower concentrations and no gradient in the values with elevation. This indicates that carbon dioxide escapes from ground level, in the soil, and moves into the atmosphere. (Photos by Johan Varekamp)