Suggested Searches

This image shows a 2-mile (3-kilometer) long plume of methane southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is much more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

EMIT Spots Methane Hotspots

A plume of methane – a potent greenhouse gas about 80 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – is detected flowing from an area southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in an image that uses data from NASA's Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission. The 2-mile (3.3-kilometer) long plume originates in an area known as the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas and is one of the largest oilfields in the world. EMIT uses an imaging spectrometer to detect the unique pattern of reflected and absorbed light – called a spectral fingerprint – from various materials on Earth's surface and in its atmosphere. Perched on the International Space Station, EMIT was originally intended to map the prevalence of minerals in Earth's arid regions, such as the deserts of Africa and Australia. Scientists verified that EMIT could also detect methane and carbon dioxide when they were checking the accuracy of the image spectrometer's mineral data. The data for these images was collected by EMIT in August 2022. Scientists estimate flow rates of 20.2 tons (18.3 metric tons) per hour at the Permian site, 55.6 tons (50.4 metric tons) per hour in total for the Turkmenistan sources, and 9.4 tons (8.5 metric tons) per hour at the Iran site. While quite large, these emission rates are broadly consistent with previous studies of locations like the Permian Basin, as well as emission source types like landfills. The Turkmenistan example has a similar magnitude to the 2015 Aliso Canyon Blowout.