Click For Photo: https://scx2.b-cdn.net/gfx/news/2020/airbornemeas.jpg
Approximately twice as much methane is seeping into the atmosphere than the Environmental Protection Agency estimates from oil and gas facilities in the south central U.S., according to a series of measurements taken by meteorologists using NASA aircraft.
In six flights through the region, researchers used onboard instruments from two planes to collect data roughly 1,000 feet above ground. They flew through massive methane plumes concentrated by regional weather patterns and used sample points and weather models to determine the actual methane concentrations of the plumes. These concentrated plumes were discovered during the Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America (ACT-America) campaign, a much broader Penn State led-effort to understand greenhouse sources and sinks.
Researchers - Methane - Oil - Gas - Facilities
Researchers found methane from oil and gas facilities to be 1.1 to 2.5 times greater than EPA estimates for the region that includes Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. In another key finding, scientists showed how frontal systems in the atmosphere can be used to track methane from much larger areas at the surface because large plumes of methane concentrations come together along the frontal boundary.
"When we flew across cold fronts, one thing we noticed was that warm air was being pulled up and funneling the region's greenhouse gases into large plumes," said Zach Barkley, researcher in meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State. "We fed data from these plumes into our weather models and, when we compared the data with the EPA inventory, we saw there was a discrepancy."
Methane - Wetlands - Agriculture - Oil - Gas
Methane comes from many sources—including wetlands, animal agriculture and the oil and natural gas industry—so researchers used ethane measurements to determine the source. Ethane is primarily found in methane produced by the natural gas industry, so researchers used that to omit methane produced by animal agriculture and other natural sources. The findings are reported in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Wake Up To Breaking News!