Researchers from SRON, the Dutch knowledge institute for scientific space research, have successfully identified super emitters of methane. These identified super emitters have a climate impact greater than that of the entire Ireland.
The satellite instrument Tropomi is a highly advanced and precise tool that conducts measurements from space for climate and air pollution research. Tropomi provides a daily global map of methane concentrations, which is crucial because methane contributes a quarter to global warming.
The data reveals that several individual sources leak substantial amounts of methane, making them low-hanging fruit in the fight against climate change. Researchers from SRON have now managed to detect these methane plumes using machine learning (AI).
Tropomi is a collaboration between Airbus Netherlands, KNMI, SRON, and TNO, commissioned by the NSO and ESA. Airbus Netherlands is the main contractor for the instrument’s design and construction. Scientific leadership is in the hands of KNMI and SRON, while TNO is responsible for the optical design and integration.
“The dozens of methane plumes that Tropomi picks up every week provide a golden opportunity in the battle against climate change,” says researcher Bram Maasakkers (SRON). “If you can see it from space, it’s serious.
For the first time, we now have a comprehensive global view of these super emitters. In our publication, we describe the 2,974 plumes we found in 2021; 45 percent of them are from the oil and gas industry, but we also see plumes from urban areas (35 percent) and coal mines (20 percent). We detect human-induced emissions with a climate impact significantly greater than that of the entire Netherlands. In many cases, these leaks can be easily sealed.”
The United Nations uses the Dutch results to work with the responsible companies or governments to find solutions. Some oil and gas installations, coal mines, and landfills emit substantial amounts of methane. Therefore, it is crucial to track down these super emitters. In many cases, the leaks can be easily fixed.