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posted by martyb on Saturday July 12 2014, @06:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the jumpin'-jack-flash dept.

A just-published analysis of data received from a satellite in 2004 has shown that at least during that year, livestock in the U.S. emitted more methane into the atmosphere than did the oil and gas industry. In their article published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a team of researchers from Harvard University, California Institute of Technology and the University of California studying the data note that such emissions were far higher than was reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Specifically, the researchers found satellite data showed livestock emitted 13 million tons of methane over the summer in 2004 (the EPA reported 9.7 million tons). They found the satellite data also showed that the combined emissions of the oil and gas industry amounted to 7 million tons (the EPA reported 9.9 million tons).

Unfortunately the sensor on the satellite was unable to show methane amounts after 2004, thus more data is not available. That will, however, change soon as a new satellite with sophisticated atmospheric gas monitoring sensors aboard is set to launch next year. More information on the role that methane plays in changing our climate can be found here.

 
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12 2014, @07:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12 2014, @07:15PM (#68208)

    Don't assume that this means cows are a bigger global warming problem than fossil fuels. This article only addresses the methane produced while EXTRACTING the oil and gas, not the CO2 emissions from burning them. I imagine these emissions are orders of magnitude higher, since after all the idea is to capture the gas and oil and sell it, not to let it escape into the atmosphere at the wellhead.

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  • (Score: 2) by pe1rxq on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:02PM

    by pe1rxq (844) on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:02PM (#68262) Homepage

    It has nothing to do with global warming because cows are not releasing carbon that has been underground for milions of years.
    If anybody uses this research to link global warming to cow farts he/she is either clueless or lying.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:23PM (#68268)

      > It has nothing to do with global warming because cows are not releasing carbon

      This is about methane not co2. Methane has a much larger impact on global warming per ton than co2, like orders of magnitude more. But there is much less of it being created too.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by pe1rxq on Sunday July 13 2014, @12:04AM

        by pe1rxq (844) on Sunday July 13 2014, @12:04AM (#68293) Homepage

        The carbon source for the methane still matters.
        The methane released by cows is part of a short cycle. (a bit more complex than CO2, but methane is still broken down over time).
        The extra methane comming from fossil fuels is a far bigger problem, it was not part of this short cycle before and the mechanisms breaking down methane will not get rid of it as quick as we are adding it.

        • (Score: 1) by deimtee on Monday July 14 2014, @12:16AM

          by deimtee (3272) on Monday July 14 2014, @12:16AM (#68706) Journal

          Methane has a pretty short half-life before it oxidises to CO2 and water. Either UV catalyzed, or it gets up high enough to react with ozone.
          Regardless of how much is emitted (excluding something like an ocean clathrate catastrophe) it is effectively gone in twelve years.

          --
          No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Sunday July 13 2014, @03:00AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Sunday July 13 2014, @03:00AM (#68337) Homepage

      Yeah, it's a pretty safe bet that if you backtrack this article you'll find an animal rights or 'earth first' type organization. They excel at lying via statistics.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by carguy on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:23PM

    by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 12 2014, @10:23PM (#68267)

    Will be interesting to see the new numbers when the next satellite is in operation. The new style of fracking deep horizontal gas wells for increased production has all gotten going since 2004--and huge amounts of methane are often released (sometimes flared off) before the new wells are connected to transmission pipelines.

  • (Score: 1) by Happy.Heyoka on Sunday July 13 2014, @03:55AM

    by Happy.Heyoka (4542) on Sunday July 13 2014, @03:55AM (#68355)

    There's also the problems of leaking methane from reticulation systems, pretty much ignored until people started pounding the pavement with sensors.

    The grid size of this satellite sensor was huge and is afaik dependant on the accuracy of ground observations for calibration.
    From reading about it it seems they use a model for mixing of gases to figure out how to plot the concentrations.

    What I wonder is how the data is different for, say, me opening a valve on a tank of gas in the middle of a field vs a couple of hundred cows in that field.