"The Methane Hunters"

"Frackers in America’s largest oil field are letting massive amounts of natural gas spill into the atmosphere. Scientists and activists are trying to find the leaks and get them plugged before they cook the planet further."

"Five hundred miles above the Earth’s surface, the Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor, a satellite about the size of a pickup truck, has been circling the planet for four years, taking pictures of the atmosphere below. The satellite’s infrared sensor can see things humans can’t, and in 2019, Yuzhong Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, got a look at some of its first readings.

Zhang was interested in methane, an invisible, odorless gas. Although carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of global warming, methane has many times carbon’s warming power and is thought to be responsible for about a quarter of the increase in global temperatures caused by humans. When Zhang laid the satellite readings over a map of the U.S., the biggest concentration of the gas showed up as a red splotch over a 150-mile-wide swath of Texas and New Mexico.

The postdoc loaded the readings into a supercomputer to calculate what it would take to form that pattern. A few days later he had an answer. Beneath the splotch, Zhang discovered, 2.9 million metric tons of methane were pouring into the sky each year. By one measure, that cloud of gas is contributing as much to global warming as Florida—every power plant, motorboat, and minivan in the state."

Zachary R. Mider reports for Bloomberg August 20, 2021.


"Research Shows Gaps In How EPA, Oil Industry Measure Methane" (E&E News)

Source: Bloomberg, 08/23/2021