Satellite finds methane concentration in Southwest

A satellite has found an unexplained hotspot of the greenhouse gas methane over a small area of the southwestern United States.

The spot is over the border of Colorado and New Mexico, near where those states meet Utah and Arizona, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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The area is about half the size of Connecticut and accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s methane from natural gas, of which methane is the main component, according to Bloomberg News.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) assisted with the study, which relies on the agency’s satellite data.

Researchers said the methane is most likely due to gas that seeps out from coal mines; the area is big for the practice.

Specifically, the gas leaks out from processing equipment, Bloomberg said.

The study found that methane concentrations in the southwest hotspot were more than three times higher than researchers previously estimated.

Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas by volume, though it is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide in global warming power.

The Obama administration has taken notice, and said it wants to reduce the amount of methane that leaks into the atmosphere.