The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) identified more than 50 methane hotspots around the world.
NASA scientists have identified more than 50 methane-emitting hotspots around the world using a tool designed to study how dust affects the climate, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.
NASA said Tuesday that the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) had identified more than 50 methane “super emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East and the southwestern United States since it boarded the International Space Station in July. was installed.
The newly measured methane hotspots — some previously known and others just discovered — include sprawling oil and gas facilities and large landfills. Methane is responsible for about 30 percent of the global temperature increase to date.
“Reducing methane emissions is key to limiting global warming,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, adding that the instrument will help “locate” methane super emitters so that such emissions ” at the source” can be stopped.
Methane is much more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Our new @NASAClimate EMIT mission, designed to measure atmospheric dust, has mapped more than 50 methane “super emitters” around the planet: pic.twitter.com/9QLxDMN0nW
— NASA (@NASA) October 25, 2022
EMIT orbits the Earth every 90 minutes from its place aboard the space station, some 400 km (250 mi) high, and can scan huge swathes of the planet tens of kilometers across, while also focusing on areas as small as a football field.
The instrument, called an imaging spectrometer, was built primarily to identify the mineral makeup of dust blown into Earth’s atmosphere from deserts and other arid regions, but it has proven adept at detecting large methane emissions.
“Some of the [methane] The plumes detected by EMIT are among the largest ever observed — unlike anything ever seen from space,” said Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who leads the methane studies.
Examples of the newly imaged methane super-radiators shown by JPL on Tuesday included a cluster of 12 plumes from oil and gas infrastructure in Turkmenistan, some plumes stretching for more than 20 miles (32 km).
Scientists estimate that Turkmenistan’s plumes collectively spew methane at a rate of 50,400 kg (111,000 pounds) per hour, contradicting the peak flow of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas field eruption near Los Angeles, which ranks as a of the largest accidental methane release in US history.
Two other major emitters were an oil field in New Mexico and a waste processing complex in Iran, which together emit nearly 29,000 kg (60,000 pounds) of methane per hour. The methane plume south of the Iranian capital Tehran was at least 3 miles long.
JPL officials said neither site was previously known to scientists.
“As it continues to survey the planet, EMIT will observe places where no one previously thought it looked for greenhouse gas emitters, and it will find plumes that no one expected,” Robert Green, EMIT’s principal investigator at JPL, said in a statement.
Methane is a by-product of decomposing organic matter and the main component of natural gas used in power plants. Methane is responsible for a fraction of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, but has about 80 times more heat-holding capacity pound-for-pound than carbon dioxide.
Compared to CO2, which lingers in the atmosphere for centuries, methane lasts for only about ten years, meaning reductions in methane emissions have a more direct effect on global warming.