A powerful eye in the sky helps physicists spot “super-emissions” of methane, a greenhouse gas about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
That NASA observer is the Earth’s Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation instrument, or EMIT for short. It was sent mapping the chemical composition of dust installed through the desert regions of the Earth with externals International Space Station (ISS) In July, researchers are helping to understand how atmospheric dust affects the movement of air.
This is the main purpose of the EMIT mission. But another, less-than-expected study of the climate was also made, NASA officials announced on Tuesday (Oct. 25). It is a tool for identifying a huge amount of heat methane Gas around the world – more than 50 of them already in fact.
Related: Climate Change: Causes and Effects
“Reining in methane emissions is the key to limiting them unceasing global warming. This new development will not only help researchers better pinpoint where methane is leaking, but also provide insight into how it can be addressed — quickly,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson it is said in the announcement (Opens in a new tab).
“The International Space Station and NASA’s more than two dozen satellites and instruments in space have long been invaluable in monitoring Earth’s climate changes,” added Nelson. “IMITTO proves that it is a critical tool in our toolkit to measure this potential Greenhouse gas — and stop at the fountain.’
EMIT is an imaging spectrometer used to identify the chemical fingerprints of various minerals on the Earth’s surface. The ability to spot methane is also like a lucky break.
“Methane turned out to also have a spectral signature in the same kill, and that allowed us to be sensitive to methane,” EMIT principal investigator Robert Green, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said in a public conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Green and other members of the EMIT team gave some samples of the instrument’s sensitivity during a call Tuesday. For example, the instrument detected plumes of methane — also known as natural gas — at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) high in the sky above an Iranian landfill. This new super-emission puts 18,700 pounds of methane (8,500 kilograms) into the atmosphere every hour, researchers said.
It’s a lot, but it pales in comparison to the cluster of 12 super-emissions spotted in Turkmenistan, all of the infrastructure associated with oil and gas. Some of these plumes are up to 20 miles (32 km) long, and together add about 11,000 pounds (50,400 kg) of methane to Earth’s atmosphere per hour
That is comparable to the peak rates of the Aliso Canyon Leak, one of the largest methane leaks in US history. (The Aliso Canyon event, which occurred at the Southern California Methane Storage Facility, was first noticed in October 2015 and was not fully implemented until February 2016.)
BUY spotted all of these super-releases very early, during the checkout phase. So it should make even bigger improvements when it’s fully up and running, and as students become more familiar with the tool’s capabilities, said team members.
“We are the only surface emitters designed for potential gas-scraping conservators,” Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at JPL, said in a press conference Tuesday. “We are really excited about the potential of EMIT to reduce emissions from human activity, as long as these emissions represent the sources.”
Mike Wall is the author of “There you go (Opens in a 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 a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (Opens in a new tab) or * Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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