Inspenet, December 25, 2023.
Over the past 18 months, a device installed on the International Space Station has recorded more than 750 sources of methane emissions , a powerful greenhouse gas, in various locations around the planet.
NASA’s EMIT Imaging Spectrometer, initially designed to map 10 key minerals in the world’s arid regions, has surpassed its goals to include the detection of methane. Although this was not the primary function of the EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation) mission, the instrument’s designers hoped it would have this capability.
Results obtained since August 2022, revealed in a new study published in Science Advances , identify methane emissions at various scales and locations, providing valuable information to understand how these emissions affect the climate.
“ At first we were a little cautious about what we could do with the instrument ,” Andrew Thorpe, research technologist on the EMIT science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. ” It has exceeded our expectations “.
Where do methane emissions come from?
Identifying sources of methane emissions , whether in landfills, agricultural areas, oil and gas facilities, or other gas-producing locations, gives those responsible the opportunity to take corrective action. Monitoring anthropogenic methane emissions is essential for mitigating climate change as it provides a rapid and relatively inexpensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Although methane remains in the atmosphere for about a decade, during this period it is up to 80 times more effective at retaining heat than carbon dioxide , which has a much longer atmospheric lifetime.
EMIT has proven effective in identifying emission sources both large (with methane emissions reaching tens of thousands of pounds per hour) and surprisingly small (even with emissions of hundreds of pounds of methane per hour). This capability is critical as it allows for the detection of a greater number of “super-emitters,” which are sources that contribute disproportionately to total emissions.
The new study details how, in its first 30 days of greenhouse gas detection, EMIT can observe between 60% and 85% of the methane plumes typically detected in conventional aerial campaigns.
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