New Zealand to be test bed for monitoring methane emissions from space

Bernard Lagan writes on The Times website about an international space mission that will use satellites to detect methane emissions from cattle.


Satellite will spy on cows making greenhouse gas

New Zealand’s five million dairy cows will be the test bed for an international space mission that will use a satellite to detect methane emissions.

Scientists know methane is rising globally but not how much of the rise is caused by livestock, as opposed to wetlands, rice paddies and other sources.

New Zealand has excellent records of how much greenhouse gas is emitted by its cows and other ruminants each year, so is ideal for testing the accuracy of the satellite’s measurements.

The satellite, due for launch in 2022, aims to be able to zero in on farmland anywhere in the world, revealing how much methane is being released at higher resolutions than before, said the Stuff website in New Zealand.

It is expected to more accurately measure the impact of farming on climate, Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said.

The contribution of methane to global warming between 1880 and 1980 has been estimated to be about 15 per cent, with an increasing share, about 18 per cent, during the 1980s.

Known as Methane Sat, the mission was conceived by the US Environmental Defense Fund and researchers at Harvard University. Mission control will be in New Zealand after the government gave NZ$26 million (£13 million) to the project.

The fund aims to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 45 per cent, including by using the satellite to identify leaks.

Dr Mikaloff-Fletcher said: “Often it’s very hard to figure out where leaks are happening in these big pipelines, so if you tell someone where they are it can be quite economical to just go and fix them.”

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