Did You Know: Monitoring Greenhouse Gases

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Did you know that satellites can detect specific sources of greenhouse gas emissions? This segments highlights the use of satellites for detecting sources of greenhouse gases, using imagery of the 2015-2016 Aliso Canyon methane leak as an example. 

 Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute‚Äôs Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).
Story adapted from Image of the Day post by Alan Buis and Mike Carlowicz: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/88245/imaging-a-methane-leak-from-space

  • Image of Padma River, Bangladesh; Landsat 8 satellite
  • Image of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand; Terra satellite
  • Image of Camp Fire, California; Landsat 8 satellite
  • Image of Wilkie Creek Mine, Queensland, Australia; Expedition 57 Crew, International Space Station
  • Image of Rice Paddy, An Giang Province, Vietnam; Landsat 8 satellite
  • Map of Aliso Canyon, north of Porter Ranch, California; data from AVIRIS mission and EO-1 Hyperion courtesy of David Thompson, NASA/JPL and the NASA EO-1 team
  • Written by Leah Ramsey
  • Designed by Dani Player
  • Music courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC

Satellite images of Earth.
Text, Satellites can detect sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to the warming of Earth's atmosphere and global climate change. Sources of methane (Landsat 8 satellite, Terra satellite, and International Space Station)
Satellite images are labeled Wetlands, Bangladesh, Volcanoes and Livestock, New Zealand, Wildfires, California, Coal Mines and Gas Wells, Australia, Rice Paddies, Vietnam
Text, It bubbles up naturally from swamps, rivers, and melting permafrost, rises from wildfires and erupting volcanoes, and is produced by bacteria in the guts of cows and termites. It also leaks silently from coal mines and natural gas and oil wells, and stews in landfills, sewage treatment plants, and rice paddies.
North America viewed from space
Text, In the winter of 2015-2016, roughly 100,000 tons of methane seeped from a large underground natural gas storage facility north of Los Angeles, California.
Aerial view of facility labeled Aliso Canyon Underground Natural Gas Storage Facility, PORTER RANCH
Text, It was one of the largest methane leaks in U.S. history.
The picture changes to black and white. Red spots appear labeled METHANE PLUME
Text, This image of the gas plume was made using data collected by a scientific instrument aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite. Aliso Canyon methane leak (Hyperion Imaging Spectrometer, Earth Observing-1 satellite)
Satellites had previously been used to measure methane concentrations high in the atmosphere.
But this was the first time that a methane leak from a single facility on Earth's surface had been observed from space.
The detection was an important breakthrough for scientists working to better understand where atmospheric methane originates.
Satellite in orbit scanning North America.
Text, Concept for NASA's future Geostationary Carbon Observatory (Artist's Illustration). Researchers know that concentrations of greenhouse gases including methane have risen significantly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s. Future satellite instruments will help us identify sources of methane, track its movement through the atmosphere, and plan strategies to decrease emissions.