NASA’s EMIT imaging spectrometer, which was launched in July 2022 to map minerals on arid regions, has showcased remarkable capabilities in detecting greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to its primary mission, EMIT has successfully identified methane emissions since August 2022.
Methane emissions are a significant contributor to climate change, as the gas is a potent greenhouse gas that can trap heat up to 80 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. Recognizing the importance of tracking methane emissions, NASA has harnessed EMIT’s capabilities to identify over 750 methane emissions sources. These sources vary in size and location, ranging from small to remote and persistent emissions points.
What makes EMIT particularly valuable in this regard is its ability to detect both large and small sources of methane emissions, including what are known as “super-emitters.” These super-emitters contribute a considerable share of total emissions, and their identification is critical for developing effective mitigation strategies.
Compared to other methods, such as airborne instruments, EMIT offers several advantages. It can collect data over a larger area and cover regions that may be deemed too risky, remote, or costly for airborne campaigns. This means that EMIT can provide a more comprehensive understanding of methane emissions in various regions across the globe.
To ensure transparency and accessibility, the EMIT science team creates methane plume maps, which are publicly available on a dedicated website. These maps aid in the identification of emission sources and can be used by scientists, organizations, and the general public.
Since its deployment, EMIT has amassed a wealth of data, documenting over 50,000 scenes. This data has allowed researchers to identify a cluster of emissions sources in southern Uzbekistan and a small emission source in southeastern Libya.
The mission’s data is available at the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center, providing researchers and the public with the necessary resources for further analysis and understanding of methane emissions. EMIT’s development and selection for the Earth Venture Instrument-4 solicitation under NASA’s Science Mission Directorate reaffirm NASA’s commitment to leveraging technology to address climate change and advance scientific knowledge.
As EMIT continues to expand its capabilities and offer critical insights into methane emissions, its impact on climate change mitigation efforts is sure to be significant.