Researchers Reveal the Worst Methane Super-Emitters in the U.S.

When it comes to global warming, methane is a monster. It may represent only 11% of the share of greenhouse gasses emitted each year, but during its first 20 years in the

atmosphere it is 80 times more efficient at capturing heat than the far more commonplace carbon dioxide. That’s why it’s so important to spot the worst emitters and shut them

down—or at least reduce their output. Now, as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reports, researchers have taken a big step toward reaching that goal. In a new paper in

the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators from JPL, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University, have pinpointed the point-sources of 40% of

the worst methane emitters across the U.S. The investigators used two key tools to conduct their study: Arizona State’s Global Airborne Observatory (GAO), an imaging spectrometer

carried aboard aircraft flying at 5,500 m (18,000 ft.) that can spot methane point-sources on the ground; and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite, which does the

same job from orbit. Using both of these eyes in the sky, the investigators identified over 3,000 individual methane super-emitters—defined as sites releasing more than 10

kg (22 lbs) of methane per hour. The emission sites include oil and gas production facilities, wet manure sites in animal feedlots, large landfills, and coal mines.