Detecting (and mitigating) Methane Super-emitters
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and a precursor for tropospheric ozone, as well as an important near-term energy source. It is a priority for climate mitigation efforts by many countries and an increasing number of subnational governments and private companies. However, the causes for observed changes in the atmospheric growth rate of methane remain poorly understood and there is compelling evidence of higher than predicted fugitive methane emissions across many economic sectors including energy, waste management, and agriculture. Multiple studies have exposed a long-tail distribution of methane emissions associated with a relatively small fraction of sources that dominate the emissions of key sectors and regions, suggesting potential low-hanging fruit for climate action. These “super-emitters” are often stochastic, highly intermittent and distributed over large areas – complicating efforts to detect and mitigate them. Recent advances in atmospheric measurements using a variety of techniques and vantage points together with data science offer the potential to dramatically advance methane mitigation. In this talk I will summarize findings from the first systematic surveys of methane super-emitters using remote sensing technology and provide some perspectives on future research and policy directions. I will also present case studies where collaborative efforts with facility operators and local agencies in California directly resulted in measurable mitigation. Finally, I will describe efforts to launch a constellation of climate satellites, a new airborne science program, and potential transdisciplinary carbon center at UA.