Methane from the waste sector makes up about 20% of human-caused methane emissions. A new project from a nonprofit group, Carbon Mapper, will use NASA instruments and data to measure emissions from landfills around the globe. Credit: Daniel Jędzura / Adobe Stock

Now they’re coming for your garbage – NASA to track landfill methane emissions from space

From NASA JPL and the “looks like there will be a garbage limit in your future” department.

NASA Sensors to Help Detect Methane Emitted by Landfills

A nonprofit group, Carbon Mapper, will use data from NASA’s EMIT mission, plus current airborne and future satellite instruments, to survey waste sites for methane emissions.

Observations from the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) and other NASA science instruments will be part of a global survey of point-source emissions of methane from solid waste sites such as landfills. The multiyear effort is being developed and conducted by the nonprofit Carbon Mapper organization.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, the source of roughly a quarter to a third of global warming caused by humans. The aim of the new initiative is to establish a baseline assessment of global waste sites that emit methane at high rates. This information can support decision-makers as they work to reduce the concentration of the gas in the atmosphere and limit climate change.

Methane produced by the waste sector contributes an estimated 20% of human-caused methane emissions. Ton for ton, methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. But where carbon dioxide remains in the air for centuries, methane has an atmospheric lifetime of only about a decade or two. That means some immediate slowing of atmospheric warming could be achieved if methane emissions were significantly reduced.

“Currently, there is limited actionable information about methane emissions from the global waste sector. A comprehensive understanding of high-emission point sources from waste sites is a critical step to mitigating them,” said Carbon Mapper CEO Riley Duren. “New technological capabilities that are making these emissions visible – and therefore actionable – have the potential to change the game, elevating our collective understanding of near-term opportunities in this often overlooked sector.”

Carbon Mapper received a grant from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment to support its operations related to the waste-site initiative, including potential funding to cover airborne methane surveys using NASA airborne assets. The project will entail conducting an initial remote-sensing survey in 2023 of more than 1,000 managed landfills across the United States and Canada, and in key locations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. To collect data from these regions, researchers will use aircraft-based sensors, including the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer-Next Generation (AVIRIS-NG), which was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. In addition, they will use Arizona State University’s Global Airborne Observatory from the Center of Global Discovery and Conservation Science, which uses another JPL-built imaging spectrometer.

As part of the Carbon Mapper project, researchers will analyze methane data from EMIT as well. The JPL-managed imaging spectrometer was installed on the International Space Station in July 2022 to measure the mineral content at the surface of Earth’s major dust-producing regions.

In October, scientists demonstrated that EMIT can also identify methane plumes from “super-emitters.” In so doing, the team added another tool to help with NASA’s broader efforts to monitor greenhouse gases.

“NASA JPL has a decadelong track record of using airborne imaging spectrometers to make high-quality observations of methane point-source emissions,” said Robert Green, EMIT’s principal investigator at JPL. “With EMIT we have employed the same technology in a spaceborne instrument, enabling us to collect information on localized methane sources from orbit.”

After the first year of the Carbon Mapper project, researchers will conduct a broader survey of more than 10,000 landfills around the world using two satellites in the Carbon Mapper satellite program. The pair of spacecraft will be equipped with imaging spectrometer technology developed at JPL. The team is targeting a launch in late 2023 in coordination with Planet Labs PBC, among other partners.

Data from the project will be accessible at the Carbon Mapper Data Portal.

For additional details about EMIT, visit:

https://earth.jpl.nasa.gov/emit/

More About the Missions

EMIT was selected from the Earth Venture Instrument-4 solicitation under the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California. The instrument’s data will be delivered to the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) for use by other researchers and the public.

The Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer-Next Generation (AVIRIS-NG) was built at JPL and designed to measure wavelengths of light from 380 to 2,510 nanometers. It has flown numerous missions, studying phenomena such as plant ecology, mineralogy, snow and ice hydrology, and environmental hazards.

Carbon Mapper is a nonprofit organization focused on facilitating timely action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Its mission is to fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and carbon dioxide monitoring systems by delivering data at facility scale that is precise, timely, and accessible to empower science-based decision making and action. The organization is leading the development of the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites supported by a public-private partnership composed of Planet Labs PBC, JPL, the California Air Resources Board, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and RMI, with funding from High Tide Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and other philanthropic donors.

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Decaf
December 27, 2022 6:23 pm

I can’t follow the science on these things, but the fact that they want to mess with our garbage sounds like they’ve hit on another way to humiliate us.

Scissor
Reply to  Decaf
December 27, 2022 8:37 pm

Pull my finger.

Bryan A
Reply to  Scissor
December 27, 2022 8:40 pm

comment image

mohatdebos
December 27, 2022 6:54 pm

Don’t these “experts” know that much of the methane from U.S. landfills is already collected and used as fuel. Indeed, it is a good racket for environmental entrepreneurs.

Ron Long
Reply to  mohatdebos
December 28, 2022 1:28 am

mohatdebos, you got that right. One of the leaders is Florida, where garbage mounds as high as 140 feet are covered with impermeable membranes and methane gas collected by pipes and utilized in government vehicles. No mention of this in the methane expose. Since this methane is trapped I suppose the new AVRIS satellite won’t detect it?

Gunga Din
Reply to  mohatdebos
December 28, 2022 8:51 am

As the push for things like EVs continues and the raw materials become more scarce, I wonder how long it will be before it becomes profitable to start mining landfills for them?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gunga Din
December 28, 2022 5:28 pm

Probably not until most of the organic material has decomposed.

DD More
Reply to  mohatdebos
December 29, 2022 7:03 am

Yea, lots of landfills have collection systems, but not all and not in Cali. From a report over a year ago.
Research by / on California –
Utilizing an Airborne Visible InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena was able to determine that landfills are by and large the most common “super-emitters” of methane in the Golden State, along with industrial dairy farms and oil and gas fields.
The NASA plane looked at more than 300,000 facilities, among which Utilizing an Airborne Visible InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena was able to determine that landfills are by and large the most common “super-emitters” of methane in the Golden State, along with industrial dairy farms and oil and gas fields. Of these 550, at least 55 were determined to be “super-emitters” due to the extremely high volumes of methane they emit. These 55 “super-emitters” alone were determined to generate at least 33 percent of California’s overall methane emissions.
The 270 landfills that NASA surveyed, 30 of them fell into the “super-emitters” category – these 30 landfills account for 40 percent of all emissions that were detected.
https://newstarget.com/2019 dot html
So 54.5 percent of “Methane Super-Emitters” are landfills. Cows are saying, “That smell wasn’t us or the dog, it was the Trash Pile”

pflashgordon
Reply to  mohatdebos
December 29, 2022 1:30 pm

This is just about the only “green” technology that is actually profitable, with no subsidies or tax breaks needed. My former graduate advisor and long time boss and mentor has advocated for landfill mining for over 40 years. It’s time will come. As Clyde noted, only after most of the organic shave decomposed to usable natural gas (i.e., methane).

antigtiff
December 27, 2022 7:14 pm

Al Gore’s mansions are major methane contributors. Defund NASA ….all they do is waste money.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  antigtiff
December 28, 2022 10:29 am

You could have left out the word “mansions”. Al Gore contributes more methane than any other single source.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
December 28, 2022 5:49 pm

I was channel surfing while eating dinner tonight. I stumbled on an interview of Gore where he was promoting a new project called climatetrace dot org. I checked out the website. It reads like an investment promotion with a lot of big numbers, but basically otherwise short on facts. Basically, it appears that someone has written a computer model to estimate anthropogenic CO2 emissions based on classification of moderate to high-resolution, multispectral imagery, such as Landsat. They then use the information they glean from the satellite imagery to estimate, by proxy, the CO2 released from things such as oil fields and power plants. Nowhere are any estimates of uncertainty provided. (Typically, one is doing well to get a 60-80% accuracy in thematic classification.) Gore claimed that there is a three-fold under-reporting of CO2 emissions by industry. Perhaps that is an insight on the accuracy of the AI they are using. In any event, I guess it didn’t occur to ‘the inventor of the internet’ that if anthro’ emissions are significantly higher than is commonly accepted, and the 2020 manufacturing downturn did not result in a measurable decline in the seasonal maximum (May) or the net annual increase, that the impact on the atmospheric concentration, or decline in ocean pH, must be much smaller than claimed.

doonman
December 27, 2022 7:21 pm

Worrying about methane emissions is like worrying about nature. All living things produce methane, so get over it. It is measured in parts per billion of atmosphere and has no effect on the weather.

Kit P
Reply to  doonman
December 27, 2022 8:04 pm

The teacher who gave you a passing in science should be fired.

Almost all living things do not produce methane but billions of years ago that was not true.

Plant take CO2 out of the air and produce O2. Some plants also fix nitrogen from the air.

Bacteria break down plant and animal waste producing nitrogen fertilizer.

Before retiring when we had a house, we would compost to make fertilizer for our garden. Others would send the waste to the landfill where anaerobic bacteria left over from billions of years ago produce methane.

Landfills are man made. Does nature do a better job? Thank god we have NASA to use satellites to answer that question.

I will sleep better tonight.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Kit P
December 27, 2022 9:01 pm

I thought people can set their farts on fire and termites also create methane.

Bryan A
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
December 28, 2022 12:19 pm

The funny thing about Methane…
Forrest fires and lightning cause it to oxidize into H2O and CO2 highly beneficial molecules that cause plants to THRIVE.
Funny how nature knows what is necessary and what Mann just thinks he knows is opposing nature

decnine
Reply to  Kit P
December 28, 2022 2:16 am

So, all those human (re)created peat bogs; do they count as evil landfills, or virtuous drainage sumps?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Kit P
December 28, 2022 8:41 am

Anaerobic bacteria exist everywhere there is organic material and a lack of oxygen.
It gets it’s oxygen from what it feeds on.
It’s a vital part of nature’s “recycling” system.
Do you think it’s “evil” because it’s helping to break down Man’s waste just as it does for the rest of nature’s waste?
Ever hear of a septic tank?
Did you know that many municipal wastewater treatment plant depend on anaerobic bacteria to further breakdown what aerobic and facultative bacteria have left behind?

Last edited 1 month ago by Gunga Din
Kit P
Reply to  Gunga Din
December 28, 2022 8:12 pm

It gets it’s oxygen from what it feeds on.

Oxygen is toxic to methane producing bacteria.

State some science here and and you get a negative 25.

To be fair the science is complicated.

December 27, 2022 7:52 pm

The matter that makes methane in landfills would probably make methane (or CO2) even if it was not put in landfills. Where is the gain from satellite monitoring? Geoff S

Kit P
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 28, 2022 8:11 pm

probably

Would you like to put a number on that probability? Try a number that is very close to zero.

There is nothing to be gained by satellite monitoring because of ignorant people.

sherro01
Reply to  Kit P
December 28, 2022 10:58 pm

Kit P,
Tell me the identity of the main methane producers in landfills.
Then tell me what they would decay to if not placed in landfills.
Geoff S

Kit P
Reply to  sherro01
December 29, 2022 1:50 pm

So Geoff you made a baseless statement and refuse to defend it.

I will start a list.

Yard waste. When you compost with excess oxygen, CO2 is produced.

Paper

ect
ect

prjndigo
December 27, 2022 7:56 pm

Yup, because they can see it “clearly” with a satellite that can’t tell what altitude something is at as well as can’t tell what altitude something is at.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  prjndigo
December 27, 2022 8:52 pm

The gain is in drama and guilt creation.
Comment is meant for Geoff. Dunno why it jumped down

Last edited 1 month ago by Alexy Scherbakoff
noaaprogramer
Reply to  prjndigo
December 27, 2022 9:48 pm

They just want to get high on Methane!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  noaaprogramer
December 28, 2022 5:52 pm

That was low!

Steve Case
December 27, 2022 7:56 pm

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, the source of roughly a quarter to a third of global warming caused by humans.

Methane produced by the waste sector contributes an estimated 20% of human-caused methane emissions. Ton for ton, methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.”
___________________________________________________

We are never told how much additional warming methane will cause. Climate science needs tell us how warming, business as usual, methane will cause by the end of the century. Smart money says it’s less than a tenth of a degree. Anyone who says it’s more than that needs to show their work.

Methane: The Irrelevant Greenhouse Gas 

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Case
Denis
December 28, 2022 3:21 am

Methane as a potent greenhouse gas? According to Happer, methane in the real atmosphere has no detectable influence on temperature because the IR bands where it could operate are saturated by water vapor. Did someone prove him wrong?

Steve Case
Reply to  Denis
December 28, 2022 5:32 am

Here’s a LINK to a comment that says, “If you waste your time in a fruitless attempt to prove CO2 [or CH4] doesn’t cause warming, and burn your own credibility in the process, they’ll be able to get away with the other, flawed part of their argument scot free.”

However, “Climate Science” is real good a saying, “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas” and even better at not taking the logical step to say how much warming it will cause.

Do a Google [News] search on “Methane times” and you will come up with page after page of stories with the phrase “Methane is [so many] times more potent than CO2” but how that translates in to actual warming of [so many] degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius is studiously avoided.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steve Case
December 28, 2022 6:03 pm

Yes, they typically avoid mentioning that CO2 has a nominal atmospheric concentration of 420 ppmv (MLO), while methane is 0.0018 ppmv. Allowing for methane having a short-term, claimed effectiveness 80X that of CO2, methane than has a CO2 equivalence of 0.14 ppmv, or about the uncertainty level of MLO CO2 measurements. In other word, it is in the noise level of CO2, amounting to only about 0.03% equivalence of CO2.

David Dibbell
December 28, 2022 4:00 am

“With EMIT we have employed the same technology in a spaceborne instrument, enabling us to collect information on localized methane sources from orbit.”

So they’re detecting methane at ground level from space by intercepting its infrared emissions that were “trapped” as heat in the atmosphere? I need to read up on exactly what they are measuring from space to make this claim.

And yes, as others have commented, methane is irrelevant in the real atmosphere, as to the static effect of absorbing and emitting infrared energy.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Dibbell
Curious George
Reply to  David Dibbell
December 28, 2022 8:08 am

These scientists discovered that methane is emitted as dust, and, fortunately, the EMIT mission measures exactly that.

MiloCrabtree
December 28, 2022 4:46 am

Meanwhile, methane bubbles to the surface of oceans and lakes all over the world.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MiloCrabtree
December 28, 2022 6:18 pm

Lately, there has been some adjustments (downward) of the methane (CH4) contributions from wetlands on the NASA website. As I showed above, the CO2 equivalence of atmospheric CH4 is about 0.03%. Assuming that anthro’ CH4 is about 50% of the total annual CH4 increase, and we’d be doing well to be able to reduce the anthro’ contribution by 50%, we’re talking about a reduction of the annual increase of CH4 by an unmeasurable equivalent CO2. I think this is all a titillating fan dance to make it look like something is being done. It reminds me of the prior restraint style gun control laws that Democrats seem to be so fond of. While they are often characterized as “common sense” laws, no reasonable person would expect any measurable results from them.

DanT
December 28, 2022 1:09 pm

The Chevy Bolt factory is directly across the road from a very large landfill. They have a pipe that moves the methane from the landfill to the factory to be a source of energy. A good solution for everyone rather than venting it.

SAIL
December 28, 2022 4:30 pm

All methane in the atmosphere is 0.00018%. Imagine the whole of the atmosphere is a car trip from Los Angeles to New York or 2,778 miles. All the planet’s methane would be just the first 26 feet from the starting point. It is a very minor amount by any reckoning.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  SAIL
December 28, 2022 6:22 pm

The methane currently in the atmosphere is 1.8 ppbv or 0.0018 ppmv.

Clyde Spencer
December 28, 2022 5:27 pm

… methane has an atmospheric lifetime of only about a decade or two.

I have seen this a lot. However, after doing some poking around, it appears that the “decade” is actually the half-life.

Christopher Chantrill
December 28, 2022 6:27 pm

I have a little problem with methane as the source of all our problems. Methane concentration is 2 parts per million. Compared to CO2 at 400 parts per million. Compared to oxygen at 210,000 parts per million.

Really?

pflashgordon
December 29, 2022 1:35 pm

NASA and this mapping project are literally bat-sh.. crazy. Useful data used for a wrong (propaganda) purpose. The methane from world landfills will likely follow a pattern. Wealthy nations, who can afford to be environmentally conscious, will be designing landfills for methane capture, actually encouraging methane generation as a natural resource. Poor, undeveloped nations will have un-engineered dumps, uncontrolled methane hot spots.

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