NASA’s Tropical Dust Analyzer has detected 50 “super-emissions” of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in the US, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The space agency said on Tuesday that the survey is useful for understanding climate change.
The Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission, which was set up on the International Space Station in July, identified it as a methane hotspot using an imaging spectrometer.
The sources of “super-emissions” include large oil and gas facilities, as well as landfills. NASA has released satellite imagery of such locations near Carlsbad, New Mexico, Tehran and Hazar, a Turkmen port on the Caspian Sea.
According to NASA, the survey and other similar studies will help to better understand climate change. Methane, although only a small part of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, is estimated to be 80 times more efficient at keeping heat in the atmosphere.
Kate Calvin, NASA Chief Scientist and NASA Senior Climate Adviser, noted that new methane detection tools will improve the way we measure and monitor how greenhouse gases affect the planet.
In August, Space.com reported that other measurements by the EMIT team were aimed at creating an “image cube showing the spectral signature of elements in Western Australia.” These include “open soil, vegetation, farmland, rivers and clouds”.
The EMIT mission is also designed to measure the amount of minerals, including dolomite, calcite and gypsum, in arid regions of the Earth.