Quantcast

NASA: Porter Ranch Gas Leak Was So Big It Could Be Seen From Space

Energy

California's 2015 methane leak was so large it could be seen from space, according to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) statement released Tuesday.

Comparison of detected atmospheric methane over Aliso Canyon, acquired 11 days apart in January 2016. The left picture was taken by NASA's Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer on a NASA ER-2 aircraft at 4.1 miles altitude. The right picture was taken by the Hyperion instrument on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite in low-Earth orbit. Photo credit: NASA

Aliso Canyon's methane leak in Porter Ranch in October 2015 marked the first time an orbiting spacecraft measured a leak from a single facility on Earth. The leak was spotted by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA's Earth Observing-1, according to a study by David R. Thompson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recently published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.

NASA's statement explained: "The observation ... is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space."

The Hyperion spectrometer was able to detect methane on three separate occasions, Thompson's paper states. NASA said the research was part of an investigation into the accidental leak, which released 94,500 tons of methane into the atmosphere, according to the latest data. The orbit observations were consistent with airborne measurements, NASA reported.

Equipment and machinery is seen in Aliso Canyon facility. Photo credit: Scott L, Wikimedia commons

Developing more instruments with similar capabilities to the Hyperion, or with even better ones, will help scientists understand the amount of methane produced by human activities and spot areas on Earth's surface that are big releasers.

"The percentage of atmospheric methane produced through human activities remains poorly understood," Thompson said. "Future instruments with much greater sensitivity on orbiting satellites can help resolve this question by surveying the biggest sources around the world, so that we can better understand and address this unknown factor in greenhouse gas emissions."

The Hyperion spectrometer measures discreet wavelengths of light. It scans in "many hundreds of wavelengths," Thompson told The Washington Post, allowing scientists to identify specific gases.

“Every gas leaves its fingerprint on the light that passes through it," he said. “So what the algorithms we applied do is they examine the imagery from the spacecraft to see the very unique spectral signature of methane, and then map it over wide locations."

Caltech in Pasadena, California; GFZ Helmholtz Centre in Potsdam, Germany; and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, also participated in the study.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

Dangerous Heat Wave to Grip the U.S.: 10 Ways to Survive Extreme Heat

TransCanada Wins Bid for Underwater Gas Pipeline Across Gulf of Mexico

Toxic Chemicals Found in Residents Living Near Oil and Gas Operations in Pavillion, Wyoming

Stockholm Divests From Coal, Oil and Gas

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

With well over a billion cars worldwide, electric vehicles are still only a small percentage. An economist from the University of Michigan Energy Institute says that is likely to change. Maskot / Getty Images

In 2018, there were about 5 million electric cars on the road globally. It sounds like a large number, but with well over a billion cars worldwide, electric vehicles are still only a small percentage.

Read More
Nestlé is accelerating its efforts to bring functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to the market and to address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste. Nestlé / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nestlé, the world's largest food company, said it will invest up to $2 billion to address the plastic waste crisis that it is largely responsible for.

Read More
Sponsored
Determining the effects of media on people's lives requires knowledge of what people are actually seeing and doing on those screens. Vertigo3d / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Byron Reeves, Nilam Ram and Thomas N. Robinson

There's a lot of talk about digital media. Increasing screen time has created worries about media's impacts on democracy, addiction, depression, relationships, learning, health, privacy and much more. The effects are frequently assumed to be huge, even apocalyptic.

Read More
Indigenous people of various ethnic groups protest calling for demarcation of lands during the closing of the 'Red January - Indigenous Blood', in Paulista Avenue, in São Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 31, 2019. Cris Faga / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Rarely has something so precious fallen into such unsafe hands. Since Jair Bolsonaro took the Brazilian presidency in 2019, the Amazon, which makes up 10 percent of our planet's biodiversity and absorbs an estimated 5 percent of global carbon emissions, has been hit with a record number of fires and unprecedented deforestation.

Read More
Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Washington on May 12, 2017. GLENN CHAPMAN / AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft announced ambitious new plans to become carbon negative by 2030 and then go one step further and remove by 2050 all the carbon it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975, according to a company press release.

Read More