NASA locates hot spot of Methane in US Southwest

NASA locates hot spot of Methane in US Southwest

On Thursday, researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said that they have located a hot spot of potent global-warming gas methane hovering over one area in the southwestern United States.

The data gathered with the help of a satellite shows about triple the previously estimated amount of methane which is coming from the hot spot. According to the researchers, the hot spot is located near the Four Corners interaction of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and NASA conducted the study that spanned from 2003-2009, before the beginning of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the area.

According to the study, the persistence of the emissions shows that the hot spot is from coal, established gases, and mining and processing.

The hot spot of methane gas has covered an area of about 6,500 square kilometers, and every year has released more than 0.59 million metric tons of methane into Earth's atmosphere.

As per the study, "This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union's widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research".

To conduct the study, the researchers used observations from Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY), an instrument that circles the earth on European Space Agency satellite.
Los Alamos National Laboratory of the United States helped the researchers get independent validation of the measurement.

After entering earth's atmosphere, methane starts trapping heat and becomes the reason of global warming. As methane doesn't have any color or odor, it becomes hard to detect it. Scientists use advanced tools to detect the gas.

Scientists had noticed the methane problem some years ago, but they didn't focus on it as they were not sure if it was an instrument error or true signals, said research scientist Christian Frankenberg of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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