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NASA captures ‘super-radiators’ of methane from space

NASA scientists have identified more than 50 spots around the world using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate.

NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects the climate, have identified more than 50 places around the world that emit large amounts of methane, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.

“Reducing methane emissions is key to limiting global warming,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release on Tuesday.

“This exciting new development will not only help researchers better identify where methane leaks come from, but also provide insight into how to quickly address them.”

NASA said the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) is designed to better understand the effects of dust in the air on climate.

But EMIT, which was installed on the International Space Station in July and can focus on areas as small as a football field, has also shown it can detect the presence of methane.

NASA said more than 50 “super emitters” of methane gas have been identified in Central Asia, the Middle East and the southwestern United States so far. Most of them are linked to the fossil fuel, waste or agriculture sectors.

Kate Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate advisor, said EMIT’s “additional methane detection capability presents a remarkable opportunity to measure and monitor greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.” – ‘Exceeds expectations’ – Methane is responsible for about 30 percent of the global temperature increase to date.

Although it is much less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, it is about 28 times more potent as a greenhouse gas on a centuries-long time scale. Over a span of 20 years, it is 80 times more powerful.

Methane lingers in the atmosphere for only ten years, compared to hundreds or thousands of years for CO2.

This means a sharp reduction in emissions could shave several tenths of a degree Celsius off projected global warming by mid-century, pushing the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing the Earth’s average temperature increase to 1. 5 C, can be maintained, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP ).

“EMIT will potentially find hundreds of super emitters — some previously spotted by air, space or ground measurements, and others unknown,” NASA said.

Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads the EMIT methane effort, said some of the methane plumes detected by EMIT are among the largest ever seen.

“What we have found in a short time exceeds all our expectations,” said Thorpe.

NASA said a methane plume about two miles long was detected southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in the Permian Basin, one of the largest oil fields in the world.

It said 12 plumes of oil and gas infrastructure were identified in Turkmenistan, east of the port city of Hazar on the Caspian Sea.

A methane plume at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) long was discovered south of Tehran from a large waste processing complex, NASA said.

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