Cows' 'methane plume' recorded from space for the first time

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Cows' 'methane plume' recorded from space for the first time
Cows' 'methane plume' recorded from space for the first time
4 May, 12:14SciencePhoto: Financial Times
The belching and flatulence of cattle, in which methane is released into the atmosphere, is one of the main causes of global warming. Previously, these emissions could be recorded from the ground and aircraft.

Now science has reached a new stage - methane plumes from cows have appeared on satellite images for the first time.

The historic images were taken by satellites from Canadian aerospace company GHGSat, which collects data related to ecology, CNN reports. The first images of large emissions were taken in February. The search for sources led to a California farm that kept cattle. When cows digest food, they release methane, mostly through burping. Along with water vapor and carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Livestock account for 10% of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

In total, the satellites recorded five emissions. GHGSat calculates that if emissions of this magnitude occur in just one year, the gas released is enough to power 15,402 homes.

GHGSat has three high resolution satellites in orbit. Previously they were used to measure emissions from open pit coal mines. Now they can detect farms with large emissions. Regular monitoring from satellites can show how the picture is changing over time, and thus allow farmers, for example, to study the effect of different diets on cows' methane emissions.

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