From methane emissions to space weather, satellite-based observations forge ahead - Astronomy and space – Physics World10 Dec 2019, 17:21 UTC
The satellite was supposed to be looking for mud volcanoes.
Instead, it found an ongoing environmental hazard.
That, in essence, is the story Adina Gillespie told attendees at the Appleton Space Conference, which was held last week at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Gillespie is the business development manager at GHGSat, a Montreal, Canada-based start-up that made headlines in November thanks to its methane-sniffing microsatellite. The satellite – dubbed “Claire” after the daughter of a GHGSat employee – has been operating since 2016 as testbed for space-based monitoring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Although GHGSat is mainly interested in methane emissions from human activities such as oil and gas production, when an academic geoscientist asked if it could also look for methane-belching mud volcanoes in Central Asia, it agreed to try.
In January 2019, the GHGSat team notched up an apparent success, detecting a plume of methane in western Turkmenistan. But something was wrong. The plume was far too big to be coming from a mud volcano. In fact, the GHGSat scientists and their collaborators calculated that, over the course of a year, the Turkmenistan site released between 108 and 176 metric kilotons of methane – equivalent to ...