Stunning news from NASA:
One small “hot spot” in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate -- according to a new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.
Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming. The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.
What's causing the massive methane release? Fossil fuel production in the area:
The study's lead author, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, noted the study period predates the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, near the hot spot. This indicates the methane emissions should not be attributed to fracking but instead to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico's San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.
Natural gas is 95-98 percent methane. Methane is colorless and odorless, making leaks hard to detect without scientific instruments.
"The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried," Kort said. "There's been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole."
In his Climate Action Plan of 2014
, President Obama announced a plan to reduce emissions in the area, but no word on whether any action has been taken against the companies largely responsible for natural gas production in the area.
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