Airborne methane remote measurements reveal heavy-tail flux distribution in Four Corners region


Fugitive methane emissions are thought to often exhibit a heavy-tail distribution (more high-emission sources than expected in a normal distribution), and thus efficient mitigation is possible if we locate the strongest emitters. Here we demonstrate airborne remote measurements of methane plumes at 1- to 3-m ground resolution over the Four Corners region. We identified more than 250 point sources, whose emissions followed a lognormal distribution, a heavy-tail characteristic. The top 10 percent of emitters explain about half of the total observed point source contribution and ∼1/4 the total basin emissions. This work demonstrates the capability of real-time airborne imaging spectroscopy to perform detection and categorization of methane point sources in extended geographical areas with immediate input for emissions abatement.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(35), 2016