Built to help scientists understand how dust affects climate, the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation can also pinpoint emissions of the potent greenhouse gas.
NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission is mapping the prevalence of key minerals in the planet’s dust-producing deserts – information that will advance our understanding of airborne dust’s effects on climate. But EMIT has demonstrated another crucial capability: detecting the presence of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
In the data EMIT has collected since being installed on the International Space Station in July, the science team has identified more than 50 “super-emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Southwestern United States. Super-emitters are facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure, typically in the fossil-fuel, waste, or agriculture sectors, that emit methane at high rates.
“Reining in methane emissions is key to limiting global warming. This exciting new development will not only help researchers better pinpoint where methane leaks are coming from, but also provide insight on how they can be addressed – quickly,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The International Space Station and NASA’s more than two dozen satellites and instruments in space have long been invaluable in determining changes to the Earth’s climate. EMIT is proving to be a critical tool in our toolbox to measure this potent greenhouse gas – and stop it at the source.”
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