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Environment

Methane Camera Spots Gassy Emissions

Imaging technique captures high-resolution shots of farms and lakes that could help map ground-level sources of the greenhouse gas

by Sarah Everts
December 7, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 48

Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases, but it’s frustratingly hard for researchers to track. As a result, scientists have struggled to procure reliable methane emission maps required for climate models. A team led by David Bastviken and Magnus Gålfalk at Linköping University has now developed a camera that can detect ground-level methane concentrations with high spatial resolution (Nat. Clim. Change 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2877). The hyperspectral imaging technology acquires an infrared spectrum of the gas for each camera pixel, from which the concentration of methane can then be measured to less than 1-m2 resolution. In proof-of-principle tests, the team measured methane emanating from a lake, emerging from a factory smokestack, and exiting a barn containing 18 flatulent cows. The new camera provides methane measurements that are 40 to 100 times as sensitive as existing airplane- and satellite-based techniques. Bastviken says he hopes that the camera will complement the airborne methods.

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Credit: Nat. Clim. Change
A spectral camera can now quantify methane emissions, such as those from this boggy lake, with improved resolution.
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Credit: Nat. Clim. Change
A spectral camera can now quantify methane emissions, such as those from this boggy lake, with improved resolution.
[+]Enlarge
Credit: Nat. Clim. Change
Methane emerging from the vent of a barn containing 18 cows (red) is being measured by hyperspectral imaging technology.
09348-scicon-fig2cxd.jpg
Credit: Nat. Clim. Change
Methane emerging from the vent of a barn containing 18 cows (red) is being measured by hyperspectral imaging technology.
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