UNITED STATES: NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission maps the prevalence of key minerals in the Earth’s dust-producing deserts to understand the effect of airborne particles on Earth’s climate. The mission has a pivotal capability to detect the presence of greenhouse gases like methane.
EMIT was installed on the International Space Station in July. Since then, the team monitoring the data collected by EMIT has identified over 50 “super-emitters” spread across Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Southwestern United States. According to NASA, facilities and equipment that emit methane at high rates are categorized as “super-emitters.”
NASA’s EMIT visualized Methane level
Bill Nelson, the NASA Administrator, said that the key to limiting global warming is the reigning in of methane emissions. He felt that the discovery would help researchers to pinpoint the location of methane leaks as well as provide insight into how to quickly address the rising levels of methane.
He adds that even though the International Space Station and many other NASA satellites’ contribution in determining the changes happening to the Earth’s climate is invaluable, the EMIT mission is becoming a critical tool to measure the potent greenhouse gas and to stop it at its source.
EMIT’s imaging spectrometer can distinguish the spectral fingerprint of methane with high accuracy and precision. A spectral fingerprint is the unique pattern of infrared light absorbed by methane. The space station’s orbit helped EMIT to cover the Earth’s surface broadly. It is also able to scan bands of Earth’s surface dozens of miles wide while resolving areas that are comparable to the size of a football field.
The instrument aboard the EMIT mission can also measure carbon dioxide. In the greenhouse-gas emissions due to human activities, carbon dioxide is the major constituent, while methane has a fractional margin. But methane is 80 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
While carbon dioxide takes centuries to dissipate or get reabsorbed, methane lasts much less for about a decade, which means that if methane emissions were reduced, its effect on greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere would be in a similar timeframe.
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