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NASA-Led Team Addresses Gap in Methane Emission Studies

A research team led by scientist John Worden of NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has helped optimize the accuracy of estimated increases in methane emissions through a new study.

NASA said Tuesday that methane emissions have been rising since 2006, but researchers’ explanations for the increase showed “irreconcilable” differences.

Researchers provided estimates for two known sources of the increase, including emissions from the oil and gas industry and microbial production in wet tropical environments.

When those estimates were added to the estimates of other sources, the sum is larger than the observed growth in atmospheric methane.

Worden’s team sought to address the gap by studying emissions from global fires since these events have declined each year in the early 2000s and during the period from 2007 to 2014, NASA noted.

The group used carbon monoxide and methane data from NASA’s Terra and Aura satellites to quantify methane emissions from fires.

JPL’s study revealed that fire emissions of methane have been decreasing faster than expected.

The calculation of fire emissions was combined with other estimates of methane emission sources and the result showed the same figure as the observed increase.

Worden’s team concluded that the annual 25-teragram increase in methane emission is comprised of 17 teragrams of fossil fuel-driven emissions and another 12 teragrams from wetlands or rice farming, while fires are decreasing by approximately 4 teragrams every year.

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