NASA’s New Instrument Detects Methane ‘Super-Emitters’ From Space



As per NASA, Methane is much more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The scientists at the American space agency NASA have developed a device that has identified more than 50 methane ‘super-emitters’. The hotspots have been found in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Southwestern United States.

The device, called an imaging spectrometer, was installed in July aboard the International Space Station, NASA said on Tuesday. The agency defined super-emitters as facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure, typically in the fossil-fuel, waste, or agriculture sectors, that emit methane at high rates.

This is a part of NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission, which is mapping the prevalence of key minerals in the planet’s dust-producing deserts. 

“Reining in methane emissions is key to limiting global warming. This exciting new development will not only help researchers better pinpoint where methane leaks are coming from, but also provide insight on how they can be addressed – quickly,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement released by the space agency. 

According to NASA, EMIT will collect measurements of surface minerals in dry regions of Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and Australia. The data will help researchers understand the role of airborne dust particles in heating and cooling Earth’s atmosphere and surface.

Circling Earth every 90 minutes from its perch onboard the space station some 400km (250 miles) high, EMIT is able to scan vast tracts of the planet dozens of kilometers across while also focusing on areas as small as a football field.

“Some of the (methane) plumes EMIT detected are among the largest ever seen – unlike anything that has ever been observed from space,” said Andrew Thorpe, a JPL research technologist leading the methane studies.

Also Read: Google Earth User Spots “Alien” In A Car, Internet Puzzled

As per the space agency, relative to carbon dioxide, methane makes up a fraction of human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, but it’s estimated to be 80 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere in the 20 years after release. 

Moreover, it was also noted that while carbon dioxide stays for centuries, methane persists for about a decade. This means that if emissions are reduced, the atmosphere will respond in a similar timeframe, leading to slower near-term warming. 

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