California Landfills: Crazy Methane Contributors

According to climate experts and scientists, a stunning 60 percent of the greenhouse gases that’s currently wreaking havoc, by making themselves home at our atmosphere, is methane. And as it turns out, the biggest contributor to this are the numerous landfills scattered around California.

Methane Factories

Per a new study, published November 6 in the scientific journal Nature, airborne remote sensing done by researchers pinpointed that landfills are the biggest sources of methane in the Golden State. Additionally, the oil and gas industry as well as dairy farms are also big contributors.

And it doesn’t even have to be large places since the team found that about 34 to 46 percent of California’s methane emissions come from 564 point sources, most of which are bits of infrastructures that are no more than 10 meters in size. From these sources, 41 percent of the emissions came from landfills, while the dairy, oil and gas industries contributed 26 percent each.

Data for the study was taken during five research campaigns that consisted of flying across California from the years 2016 to 2018. During these campaigns, Riley Duren, an electrical engineer and research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California,  as well as her colleagues, used an airborne imaging spectrometer to find out where most of the gas emissions came from. The spectrometer then scanned more or less 271,000 facilities and infrastructures for methane plumes to come up with the data, which is now available online thanks to the result of a partnership between NASA, the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission.

According to them, there are some large point sources that can easily be fixed, such as malfunctioning gas-capture systems or leaky pipelines. However, other diffuse sources are much more harder to spot, and are therefore harder to stop, if such an attempt was made. Nevertheless, the study is a good starting point in making steps to help reduce the amount of methane emissions that end up in our atmosphere.

“The research means that we can focus our mitigation efforts on the biggest sources,” Alexander Turner, atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is not involved in the new study, said.

disposal-1846033_1280 Landfills are among the biggest methane contributors today. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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