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Montevideo, May 22nd 2022 - 07:59 UTC

 

 

Cattle methane gas from belching and flatulence measured from space

Friday, May 6th 2022 - 09:22 UTC
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High-resolution satellites were used to study methane emissions from the Bear 5 cow feedlot near Bakersfield, California High-resolution satellites were used to study methane emissions from the Bear 5 cow feedlot near Bakersfield, California

Scientists have managed to measure the belching and flatulence of cattle from space. This is considered important since the International Agency of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture estimate that methane from cows' burps and farts has a great influence on climate change and global warming.

Cows themselves have done nothing wrong in simply passing gas, but as human activity remains the leading driver of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers are investigating how the agriculture industry could be contributing to climate change.

In the new study, researchers used high-resolution satellites owned by the Montreal-based company GHGSat Inc. to study methane emissions from the Bear 5 cow feedlot near Bakersfield, California. They found that, on Feb. 2, the lot was emitting a range of 977 pounds (443 kilograms) to 1,472.69 pounds (668 kg) of methane per hour. If these emissions were sustained for a year, it would add up to over 5,000 tons of methane to Earth's atmosphere, according to a statement from the company.

“This has not been done at an individual facility scale for the agriculture sector, as far as we know,” Brody Wight, a sales director at GHGSat, said in the statement. “The idea is that we need to measure first before you can take real positive action.”

You might think that cow farts are a bigger deal than cow burps when it comes to methane emissions. But it turns out that flatulence only makes up a small amount, roughly 5%, of the methane generated by cattle. The remainder comes from burping, with methane released through a cow's nose, according to the statement. Cows burp so much because gases are created when their stomachs break down grass and other food.

Agriculture is a major influence on climate change, and it is one of the largest source of methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. The agriculture industry contributes roughly 10.5% of all greenhouse gasses in the U.S. points out the US Department of Agriculture. The US cattle herd numbers 91.9 million cows and calves. But despite the industry's immense size and greenhouse gas emissions, this is the first measurement of its kind made from space with satellites.

Methane from cows is particularly tricky to track on the ground because the emissions are diffuse and so they blow around in the wind, Wight said. This makes satellite observations especially important in gathering data about methane emissions from cattle on Earth. Measuring methane from space also has a number of significant advantages, allowing researchers to scan large swaths of the planet's surface at once.

GHGSat aims to ramp up their satellite observations, from scanning Earth on a weekly basis using two satellites to doing daily scans with a fleet of 10 satellites by early next year, Wight added in the statement. The findings will be provided to the United Nations International Methane Emissions Observatory program.

There are a number of methane producers, including coal, gas, and oil, but livestock is the biggest, of all methane emissions. Methane traps more heat than CO2 but has a shorter atmospheric lifespan. Still, its ability to trap heat makes it a target in the fight against climate change.

Categories: Environment, International.

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  • Marti Llazo

    Is the considerably greater belching and flatulence of the Argentine ministry of foreign affairs measured in the same manner?

    May 06th, 2022 - 06:40 pm 0
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