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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 Dec 2016
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).
Methane emissions from a Californian landfill, determined from airborne remote sensing and in-situ measurements
Sven Krautwurst1, Konstantin Gerilowski1, Haflidi H. Jonsson2, David R. Thompson3, Richard W. Kolyer4, Andrew K. Thorpe3, Markus Horstjann1, Michael Eastwood3, Ira Leifer5, Sam Vigil6, Thomas Krings1, Jakob Borchardt1, Michael Buchwitz1, Matthew M. Fladeland4, John P. Burrows1, and Heinrich Bovensmann1 1Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
2Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies (CIRPAS), Marina, CA, US
3Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, US
4Earth Science Devision, NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), Mountain View, CA, US
5Bubbleology Research International (BRI), Goleta, CA, US
6California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly), San Luis Obispo, CA, US
Abstract. Fugitive emissions from waste disposal sites are important anthropogenic sources of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4). As a result of the growing world population and the recognition of the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, this anthropogenic source of CH4 has received much recent attention. However, the accurate assessment of the CH4 emissions from landfills by modeling and existing measurement techniques is challenging. This is because of inaccurate knowledge of the model parameters and the extent of and limited accessibility to landfill sites. This results in a large uncertainty in our knowledge of the emissions of CH4 from landfills and waste management.

In this study, we present results derived from data collected during the research campaign COMEX (CO2 and Methane EXperiement) in late summer 2014 in the Los Angeles (LA) Basin. The objective of COMEX, which comprised aircraft observations of methane by the remote sensing Methane Airborne MAPper (MAMAP) instrument and a Picarro greenhouse gas in-situ analyser, was the quantitative investigation of CH4 emissions.

Enhanced CH4 concentrations or "CH4 plumes" were detected downwind of landfills by remote sensing aircraft surveys. Subsequent to each remote sensing survey, the detected plume was sampled within the atmospheric boundary layer by in-situ measurements of atmospheric parameters such as wind information and dry gas mixing ratios of CH4 and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the same aircraft. This was undertaken to facilitate the independent estimation of the surface fluxes for the validation of the remote sensing estimates.

During the COMEX campaign, four landfills in the LA Basin were surveyed. One landfill has repeatedly shown a clear emission plume. This landfill, the Olinda Alpha Landfill, was observed on four days during the last week of August and first days of September 2014. Emissions were estimated for all days using a mass balance approach. The derived emissions are between 13.0 and 18.2 kt CH4/yr with related uncertainties in the range of 17 % to 46 %. The comparison of the remote sensing and in-situ based CH4 emission rate estimates reveals good agreement within the error bars with an average absolute difference of around 2.3 kt CH4/yr. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported inventory value is 11.5 kt CH4/yr in 2014, on average 3.0 kt CH4/yr (±1.5 kt CH4/yr) lower than our estimates acquired in late Summer 2014. This difference may in part be explained by a possible leak located on the south-western slope of the landfill, which we identified in the observations of the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer – Next Generation (AVIRIS-NG) instrument, flown contemporaneously aboard a second aircraft on one day.

Citation: Krautwurst, S., Gerilowski, K., Jonsson, H. H., Thompson, D. R., Kolyer, R. W., Thorpe, A. K., Horstjann, M., Eastwood, M., Leifer, I., Vigil, S., Krings, T., Borchardt, J., Buchwitz, M., Fladeland, M. M., Burrows, J. P., and Bovensmann, H.: Methane emissions from a Californian landfill, determined from airborne remote sensing and in-situ measurements, Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss., doi:10.5194/amt-2016-391, in review, 2016.
Sven Krautwurst et al.
Sven Krautwurst et al.
Sven Krautwurst et al.


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Short summary
This study investigates a subset of data collected during the CO2 and Methane EXperiment (COMEX) in 2014. It focuses on airborne measurements to quantify the emissions from landfills in the Los Angeles Basin. Airborne remote (RS) sensing data have been used to estimate the emission rate of one particular landfill on four different days. The results have been compared to airborne in-situ measurements. Airborne imaging spectroscopy has been used to identify emission hotspots across the landfill.
This study investigates a subset of data collected during the CO2 and Methane EXperiment (COMEX)...