New NASA Instrument on ISS Helps Detect Greenhouse Gas Emissions
NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) instrument, launched in July 2022, was initially designed to map minerals in arid regions and examine their impact on climate. However, recent research has revealed that EMIT can also identify over 750 point-source emissions of greenhouse gases, including the potent greenhouse gas, methane.
Methane, which is up to 80 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, plays a significant role in climate change. It is crucial to pinpoint methane sources in order to develop strategies to limit emissions and tackle the climate crisis, as the majority of emissions are caused by human activities.
While instruments for detecting methane are commonly deployed in aircraft, they have limitations in terms of coverage and cost. EMIT, located on the International Space Station (ISS), has proven to be a successful alternative, capable of detecting methane plumes and capturing scenes that traditional aircraft missions cannot reach.
During its first 30 days of operation, EMIT observed 60% to 80% of methane plumes typically detected during airborne campaigns. This highlights the importance of studying our own planet to gain a better understanding of and address climate change.
The study, which was published in Science Advances, emphasizes the significance of utilizing innovative methods like the EMIT instrument to study Earth’s environment and contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. By leveraging the capabilities of space stations such as the ISS, scientists can gather crucial data on greenhouse gas emissions and inform strategies to combat climate change.