NASA stated that EMIT’s accurate identification of methane emissions enables operators at facilities to mitigate their climate impact.
NASA said its Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) imaging spectrometer, launched in July 2022 and stationed on the International Space Station (ISS), has exceeded expectations by not only mapping surface minerals but also identifying source emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly methane. The surprising capabilities of EMIT were revealed in a new study published in Science Advances.
Greenhouse gas detection proficiency
Originally designed to map minerals in arid regions, EMIT has demonstrated its effectiveness in detecting methane emissions from diverse sources, pinpointing more than 750 emission sites since August 2022. The sources include landfills, agriculture sites, and oil and gas facilities.
Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist on the EMIT science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “We were a little cautious at first about what we could do with the instrument. It has exceeded our expectations.”
Methane 80 times more heat-trapping than Co2
NASA noted that Methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) whose presence in the atmosphere affects the earth’s temperature and climate system, is up to 80 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
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EMIT equips operators to tackle methane impact
The space agency highlighted that EMIT’s capability to precisely identify methane emissions provides operators of facilities, such as landfills and agriculture sites, an opportunity to address and mitigate their impact on climate.
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NASA emphasized that EMIT has demonstrated its proficiency in detecting emission sources of varying sizes, from large emissions in the tens of thousands of pounds per hour to surprisingly small sources emitting hundreds of pounds per hour. This capability, it said, is crucial in identifying “super-emitters” that contribute disproportionately to total emissions.
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Robert O Green, EMIT’s principal investigator and a JPL senior research scientist, remarked, “The number and scale of methane plumes measured by EMIT around our planet is stunning.”
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Public access to data
The US Space Agency stated on its website that the EMIT science team grants access to maps of methane plumes to the public, scientists, and organizations on a dedicated website. The underlying data is accessible at the joint NASA-United States Geological Survey Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), it said. Additionally, NASA mentioned that since August 2022, EMIT has documented over 50,000 scenes, offering valuable insights into global methane emissions.
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