NASA discovers more than 50 “super emitting” regions of methane around the world

Using an instrument designed to study how dust affects climate, NASA scientists have identified more than 50 spots around the world that emit significant levels of methane, a development that could help combat powerful greenhouse gases.

“Reducing methane emissions is key to limiting global warming,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a news release Tuesday.

“This exciting new development will not only help researchers better identify the source of the methane leak, but will also provide insight into how to address it — quickly.”

NASA said the EMIT Source Investigation is designed to advance understanding of the effects of airborne dust on climate.

But EMIT, which was installed on the International Space Station in July and can focus on areas as small as a football field, has also demonstrated the ability to detect the presence of methane.

A 4.8 km long methane column south of Tehran, Iran. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

So far, more than 50 “super emitters” of methane have been identified in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the southwestern United States, NASA said. Most of them are related to the fossil fuel, waste or agriculture sectors.

“The additional ability to detect methane at EMIT provides a fantastic opportunity to measure and monitor greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,” said Kate Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate advisor.

“Exceeds our expectations”

Methane is responsible for nearly 30 percent of global warming to date.

While less abundant in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide2, it is about 28 times more powerful than the greenhouse gases on a century time scale. Over a 20-year time frame, they are 80 times more effective.

Methane stays in the atmosphere for only a decade, compared to hundreds or thousands of years for carbon dioxide2.

That means a sharp drop in emissions could remove several tenths of a degree Celsius of projected global warming by mid-century, helping maintain the Paris Agreement’s goal of capping global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the United Nations programme. for the environment. (United Nations Environment Programme).

“EMIT is likely to find hundreds of super-emitters – some previously observed through atmospheric, space-based or ground-based measurements, others unknown,” NASA said.

Some of the methane plumes discovered by EMIT are among the largest ever seen, said Andrew Thorpe, a research technician at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads the methane emissions efforts.

“What we found in such a short time actually exceeds our expectations,” Thorpe said.

A column of methane gas about two miles (3.3 kilometers) long has been discovered southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in the Permian Basin, one of the world’s largest oil fields, NASA said.

It added that 12 pillars of oil and gas infrastructure have been identified in Turkmenistan, east of the coastal city of Hazar on the Caspian Sea.

A column of methane gas at least 4.8 km long was discovered south of Tehran from a major waste processing complex, NASA said.


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