NASA detects more than 50 methane 'super-emitter' areas around the world

NASA detects more than 50 methane ‘super-emitter’ areas around the world

NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects the climate, have identified more than 50 places around the world emitting significant levels of methane, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.

“Controlling methane emissions is essential to limiting global warming,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release on Tuesday.

“This exciting new development will not only help researchers better determine where methane leaks are coming from, but will also provide insight into how they can be addressed – quickly.”

NASA said its Earth Surface Mineral Dust Sources (EMIT) survey is designed to help understand 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 shown its ability to detect the presence of methane.

Methane plume emitted near Tehran, Iran.
A 4.8 kilometer long methane plume south of Tehran, Iran. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

According to NASA, more than 50 methane gas “super-emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East and the southwestern United States have been identified so far. Most of them are linked to the fossil fuel, waste or agricultural sectors.

Kate Calvin, NASA Chief Scientist and Senior Climate Advisor, said “EMIT’s additional methane sensing capability provides a remarkable opportunity to measure and monitor greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. “.

“Exceeds our expectations”

Methane is responsible for about 30% of the global temperature increase to date.

Although much less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, it is about 28 times more potent as a greenhouse gas on a century scale. Over a period of 20 years, it is 80 times more powerful.

Methane only stays in the atmosphere for a decade, compared to hundreds or thousands of years for CO2.

This means that a sharp cut in emissions could reduce projected global warming by several tenths of a degree Celsius by mid-century, helping to maintain the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the average increase in Earth’s temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the United Nations Environment Program. (UNEP).

“EMIT will potentially find hundreds of super-emitters – some of them have already been spotted by air, space or ground measurements, and others that were unknown,” NASA said.

Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory leading the EMIT methane effort, said some of the methane plumes detected by EMIT are among the largest ever seen.

“What we’ve found in such a short time is already exceeding our expectations,” Thorpe said.

NASA said a methane plume about 3.3 kilometers long has been detected southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in the Permian Basin, one of the largest oil fields in the world.

He said 12 oil and gas infrastructure plumes have been identified in Turkmenistan, east of the port city of Hazar on the Caspian Sea.

A methane plume at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) long was detected south of Tehran from a major waste treatment complex, NASA said.

© Agence France-Presse

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