MSF: Methane Source Finder

Principal Investigator: Riley Duren, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Co-Investigators (Co-PI): Andrew Thorpe, Brian Bue, Rob Tapella, David Thompson: JPL; Francesca Hopkins: University of California, Riverside With collaborators from: California Air Resources Board; California State Energy Commission


Methane (CH4) is a powerful greenhouse gas as well as a precursor for tropospheric ozone and is strongly linked with co-emitted reactive trace gases. It is increasingly prioritized for near-term climate action given its relatively short atmospheric lifetime and the potential for rapid, focused mitigation.

The causes of the atmospheric growth rate of methane are poorly understood at global scales and emissions from methane sources remain uncertain at all scales. Most of the methane released into the atmosphere from human activity is associated with fossil fuel production and distribution, livestock farming, landfills, wastewater treatment, and rice cultivation. California law requires that these methane sources be monitored. However, emissions from methane point sources using in-situ methods is challenging given that they are distributed over very large areas and often occur in an intermittent fashion. Remote sensing provides an alternative.

In 2014, data from NASA’s airborne imaging spectrometers AVIRIS-NG and HyTES were effectively used to detect point sources of methane in California, New Mexico, and Colorado. However, the methods used were time-consuming and required technical expertise. Methane Source Finder (MSF), a science data system developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, streamlines the processing and visualization of airborne methane remote sensing data products. It automates the process and creates Level 3 and Level 4 output files that allow industry and government users to characterize and confirm methane point sources.

The MSF team collaborated with the California Air Resources Board and the California State Energy Commission to successfully demonstrate MSF during its 2016 and 2017 California Methane Survey. The MSF portal will allow public users to access data from the survey.


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Last Updated: Jun 11, 2019 at 10:34 AM EDT