Methane Gas Hot Spot Found Over Four Corners Area

Published: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 5:48pm

A surprising hot spot of methane gas has been spotted over part of the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. The concentration was spotted from satellites.

The satellite image of atmospheric methane concentrations over the U.S. shows the hot spot as a bright red blip over the Four Corners area.

Researchers said the higher level of methane is not a safety or a health issue for residents, but factors in overall global warming. The new study done by NASA and the University of Michigan shows the amount of methane in the Four Corners area, which covers about 2,500 square miles, would trap more heat in the atmosphere than all the carbon dioxide produced yearly in Sweden. That's because methane is 86 times more potent for trapping heat in the short-term than carbon dioxide.

Researchers said the methane likely comes from leaks as workers extract natural gas from coal beds. The data was collected from 2003 to 2009. The results were initially so surprising that scientists waited several years and then used ground monitors to verify what they saw from space.

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