A powerful eye in the sky is helping scientists watch for “super emitters” of methane, a greenhouse gas about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
This observer is NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Resource Survey instrument, or EMIT for short. EMIT has been mapping the chemical composition of the powder Throughout desert regions since it was formed outside of Earth International Space station (ISS) has helped researchers understand how dust in the air affects climate.
This is the main goal of EMIT’s mission. But it also makes a less-expected contribution to climate studies, NASA officials said on Tuesday (October 25th). Device detects huge heat-trapping plumes methane gas around the world – actually more than 50.
Related: Climate change: Causes and effects
“Restraining methane emissions is key to containment global warming. This exciting new development will not only help researchers better identify where methane leaks are coming from, but will also provide insight into how they can be addressed quickly.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement (opens in new tab).
“The International Space Station and NASA’s more than two dozen satellites and instruments in space have long been invaluable in detecting changes in Earth’s climate,” Nelson added. “EMIT is proving to be a critical tool in our toolbox for measuring this potential. greenhouse gases – and stop at source.”
EMIT is an imaging spectrometer designed to identify chemical fingerprints of various minerals on the Earth’s surface. The ability to detect methane as well is a kind of happy coincidence.
“Meth turned out to have a spectral signature in the same wavelength range, and that made us sensitive to methane,” said EMIT principal investigator Robert Green of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California. Press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Green and other EMIT team members gave some examples of the instrument’s precision during a media interview Tuesday. For example, the device detected methane gas (also known as natural gas) at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) long in the sky above an Iranian landfill. This newly discovered superemitter pumps about 18,700 pounds (8,500 kilograms) of methane into the air every hour, the researchers said.
That’s a lot, but pales in comparison to a cluster of 12 superemitter EMITs detected in Turkmenistan, all associated with oil and gas infrastructure. Some of these plumes are 20 miles (32 km) long, and together they add about 111,000 pounds (50,400 kg) of methane. earth atmosphere hourly.
This is comparable to the highest rates of the Aliso Canyon spill, one of the largest methane releases in US history. (The Aliso Canyon incident, which occurred at a methane storage facility in Southern California, was first noticed in October 2015 and wasn’t completely shut down until February 2016.)
EMIT detected all these super-emitters very early in the device’s control phase. Team members should therefore make even greater contributions as they become fully operational and scientists become more familiar with the instrument’s capabilities.
“We’re really just scratching the surface of EMIT’s potential for mapping greenhouse gases,” Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at JPL, told a news conference Tuesday. Said. “We’re really excited about EMIT’s potential to reduce emissions from human activities by identifying these emission sources.”
Mike Wall”Outside (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or he Facebook (opens in new tab).
Leave a Comment