What’s causing the hot spot?

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What’s causing the hot spot?

At least 75 researchers study methane leaks in Four Corners
What is methane, and is it dangerous?

DENVER – Scientists are investigating a methane “hot spot” in the Four Corners. But what is there to be concerned about?
This simple molecule – made up of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms – strongly absorbs infrared radiation, much more so than carbon dioxide. While methane is not believed to be overly dangerous to human health, it adds to climate change.
“This means when you put more of it in the atmosphere, it acts as a greenhouse gas, which leads to warmer surface temperatures,” said Eric Kort, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan, who has been working on the Four Corners investigation since its inception. Kort has a background in measuring greenhouse gases.
Methane has a lifetime in the atmosphere of about nine years. When methane is emitted, it reacts chemically in the atmosphere and is turned into carbon dioxide.
What’s significant is that a pound of emitted methane is roughly equivalent to emitting many more pounds of carbon dioxide. Over 100 years, 1 pound of methane is equivalent to about 30 pounds of carbon dioxide.
“The opportunity to reduce methane emissions could help in the short-term at reducing warming,” Kort said. “A reduction of emissions would have an impact more quickly.”
pmarcus@ durangoherald.com

What’s causing the hot spot?

This photograph of a laptop computer screen shows a storage tank spewing methane gas next to a natural-gas facility near Aztec, as seen from a thermal camera imaging system operated by Andrew Thorpe of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Researchers recently flew over the area as they worked on a project to identify the causes of significant methane leaks.
Andrew Thorpe of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, powers up a thermal camera imaging system next to a storage tank at a natural-gas facility near Aztec. Researchers were in the Four Corners this spring working on a unique collaborative study to reveal the cause of the methane concentration over the area.
Several natural-gas production facilities are in the San Juan Basin area near Bloomfield, N.M. A hot spot in the region is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas in the nation.
From left, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Christian Frankenberg of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Colm Sweeney with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Gabrielle Petron gather at the Durango-La Plata County Airport in April before boarding planes to fly over a methane “hot spot” in the region.
Seth Chazanoff of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory removes a lens cap to a Hyperspectral Thermal Emission Spectrometer pointing down from within an aircraft used to study methane emissions in the Four Corners.
Mackenzie Smith of the University of Michigan calibrates testing equipment that will be used in the aerial monitoring of methane levels in the Four Corners.
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