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

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https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2018-171
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
06 Jun 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).
Quantifying methane point sources from fine-scale (GHGSat) satellite observations of atmospheric methane plumes
Daniel J. Varon1,2, Daniel J. Jacob1, Jason McKeever2, Dylan Jervis2, Berke O. A. Durak2, Yan Xia3, and Yi Huang3 1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
2GHGSat, Inc., Montréal, QC H2W 1Y5, Canada
3Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Montréal, QC H3A 0B9, Canada
Abstract. Anthropogenic methane emissions originate from a large number of relatively small point sources. The planned GHGSat satellite fleet aims to quantify emissions from individual point sources by measuring methane column plumes over selected ~ 10 × 10 km2 domains with ≤ 50 × 50 m2 pixel resolution and 1–5 % measurement precision. Here we develop algorithms for retrieving point source rates from such measurements. We simulate a large ensemble of instantaneous methane column plumes at 50 × 50 m2 pixel resolution for a range of atmospheric conditions using the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) in large eddy simulation (LES) mode and adding instrument noise. We show that standard methods to infer source rates by Gaussian plume inversion or source pixel mass balance are prone to large errors because the turbulence cannot be properly parameterized on the small scale of instantaneous methane plumes. The integrated mass enhancement (IME) method, which relates total plume mass to source rate, and the cross-sectional flux method, which infers source rate from fluxes across plume transects, are better adapted to the problem. We show that the IME method with local measurements of the 10-m wind speed can infer source rates with error of 0.07–0.17 t h−1 + 5–12 % depending on instrument precision (1–5 %). The cross-sectional flux method has slightly larger errors (0.07–0.26 t h−1 + 8–12 %) but a simpler physical basis. For comparison, point sources larger than 0.5 t h−1 contribute more than 75 % of methane emissions reported to the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Additional error applies if local wind speed measurements are not available, and may dominate the overall error at low wind speeds. Low winds are beneficial for source detection but not for source quantification.
Citation: Varon, D. J., Jacob, D. J., McKeever, J., Jervis, D., Durak, B. O. A., Xia, Y., and Huang, Y.: Quantifying methane point sources from fine-scale (GHGSat) satellite observations of atmospheric methane plumes, Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2018-171, in review, 2018.
Daniel J. Varon et al.
Daniel J. Varon et al.
Daniel J. Varon et al.

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Short summary
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas emitted by numerous human activities. Spaceborne observation of point sources would be a cost-effective monitoring solution, but the resolution of conventional methane-observing satellites is too coarse to resolve most methane emitters. We simulated fine-resolution (50-meter) satellite observations of methane plumes as would be measured by GHGSat (to be launched in 2019), and show that such data can usefully quantify large methane point sources.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas emitted by numerous human activities. Spaceborne...
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