“Hot Spot” Near Four Corners Produces Largest Methane Concentration in the U.S.

Scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan have published a new study showing that an area at the intersection of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada is a “hot spot” for methane emissions.

In each of the seven years studied from 2003 to 2009, the area released about 0.59 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union’s widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research.

Map showing methane hot spot found by NASA JPL.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan

The gas measured in the study comes from leaks in processing equipment, and is not
attributed to fracking, underscoring the need for ongoing research of all aspects of fossil fuel industry. The leaks occur in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coal-bed methane production area in the country.

Read more about how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory called attention to the hot spot. The study is published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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