Gas, coal, and coalbed mining and methane processing operations are the likely cause of a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud above the southwestern United States, DeSmog Blog reports.
When NASA researchers first spotted the cloud over the Four Corners region, at the intersection between Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, “they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error,” Mike G reports. It turned out the “atmospheric hot spot” was above New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, North America’s most productive source of coalbed methane.
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NASA concluded that the region produced 590,000 tonnes of methane per year between 2002 and 2012—three times the calculation in a key European Union database—and none of it came from fracking. “While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the U.S., fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates,” said lead researcher Eric Kort of the University of Michigan. (h/t to Dr. Susan Rubin for pointing us to this story)