JPL scientists, whom Caltech manages for NASA, are helping California create a detailed, state-of-the-art inventory of methane point sources – highly concentrated methane releases from individual sources – using a specialized airborne sensor. The new data, published this week in the journal Nature, can be used to direct actions to reduce the emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas.
Like carbon dioxide, methane traps heat in the atmosphere, but it does so more efficiently and for a shorter period of time. Scientists estimate that most methane emissions in California are driven by industrial plants, such as oil and gas fields, large dairies and landfills. To help reduce the impact of methane on the climate, the state has given priority to cutting emissions caused by man. But to reduce these hard-to-detect emissions, sources must be measured and identified.
"This work shows unequivocally that there are sources of methane points not only in the oil and gas industry, but also in landfills and in agriculture. Finding these great sources of points is the most difficult part, mitigation can quickly follow after, representing a win-win both for the environment and for the industry, "he says. Christian Frankenberg, professor of environmental sciences and engineering and co-author of the Nature paper.