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  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on December 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA MERLIN, Methane Studies   

    From DLR: “German-French MERLIN mission at COP 21” 

    DLR Bloc

    German Aerospace Center

    08 December 2015

    Elisabeth Mittelbach
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Communications, Space Administration
    Tel.: +49 228 447-385
    Fax: +49 228 447-386

    Dr Matthias Alpers
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Space Administration, Earth Observation
    Tel.: +49 228 447-585
    Fax: +49 228 447-747

    Pascale Bresson
    Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
    Direction de la communication externe, de l’éducation et des affaires publiques
    Tel.: +33 1 44767-539

    eo Merlin

    On Tuesday 8 December at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference COP 21 in Paris, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the French space agency (CNES) met to reaffirm their commitment to jointly develop the MEthane Remote sensing LIdar missioN (Merlin) satellite that is set to measure concentrations of methane in Earth’s atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy. Germany was represented by Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, and France was represented by Thierry Mandon, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research. Also present were Gerd Gruppe, member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for the Space Administration and Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES.

    Accurate measurements around the clock

    France and Germany are consequently showing their determination to engage in a large-scale bilateral space cooperation project, with the intent to develop space missions dedicated to measuring greenhouse gases and their sources, as well as to acquire the tools necessary to gain a greater insight into the mechanisms driving Earth’s climate.

    MERLIN is built around the new Myriade Evolutions spacecraft bus developed by CNES in partnership with industry. The payload is an active LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) instrument and is being developed and built in Germany under the supervision of DLR and funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Using a laser to emit light in two different wavelengths, the LIDAR is able to acquire highly precise day/night measurements of atmospheric methane concentration at all latitudes. Germany and France will jointly process and evaluate the data gained from the mission through the close involvement of research laboratories, which are making a vital contributions towards defining science targets, technical developments and validating the system. MERLIN will be launched in 2020, and will orbit Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometres.

    Methane – a climate-damaging greenhouse gas

    Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Its contribution is therefore significant. The goal of MERLIN is to learn more about the underlying processes of the methane cycle by characterising sources of the gas – both natural (wetlands, thawing permafrost, etc.) and anthropogenic (transport and burning of coal, natural gas and ruminant livestock, etc.).

    After this meeting, Mandon and Zypries emphasised: “The development of MERLIN by CNES and DLR is highly symbolic and demonstrates France and Germany’s strong desire to accomplish this mission, which is going to be crucial in increasing our understanding of the processes driving climate change. With the COP 21 climate conference now underway in Paris, this is a major milestone for the environment and its protection, which shows we are fully committed to moving forward in this area, vital for the future of our planet.”

    See the full article here .

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    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

  • richardmitnick 4:30 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Methane Studies,   

    From JPL: “Scientists Take Aim at Four Corners Methane Mystery” 


    April 7, 2015
    Carol Rasmussen
    NASA Earth Science News Team

    Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane “hot spot” can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Researchers from several institutions are in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane “hot spot” detected from space.

    “With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery,” said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA’s part of the effort. Other investigators are from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    Last fall, researchers including Frankenberg reported that a small region around the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah had the highest concentration of methane over background levels of any part of the United States. An instrument on a European Space Agency satellite measuring greenhouse gases showed a persistent atmospheric hot spot in the area between 2003 and 2009. The amount of methane observed by the satellite was much higher than previously estimated.

    The satellite observations were not detailed enough to reveal the actual sources of the methane in the Four Corners. Likely candidates include venting from oil and gas activities, which are primarily coalbed methane exploration and extraction in this region; active coal mines; and natural gas seeps.

    Researchers from CIRES, NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory and Michigan are conducting a field campaign called TOPDOWN (Twin Otter Projects Defining Oil Well and Natural gas emissions) 2015, bringing airborne and ground-based instruments to investigate possible sources of the methane hot spot. The JPL team will join the effort on April 17-24. The groups are coordinating their measurements, but each partner agency will deploy its own suite of instruments.

    The JPL participants will fly two complementary remote sensing instruments on two Twin Otter research aircraft. The Next-Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRISng), which observes spectra of reflected sunlight, flies at a higher altitude and will be used to map methane at fine resolution over the entire region. Using this information and ground measurements from the other research teams, the Hyperspectral Thermal Emission Spectrometer (HyTES) will fly over suspected methane sources, making additional, highly sensitive measurements of methane. Depending on its flight altitude, the NASA aircraft can image methane features with a spatial resolution better than three feet (one meter) square. In other words, it can create a mosaic showing how methane levels vary every few feet, enabling the identification of individual sources.

    With the combined resources, the investigators hope to quantify the region’s overall methane emissions and pinpoint contributions from different sources. They will track changes over the course of the month-long effort and study how meteorology transports emissions through the region.

    “If we can verify the methane detected by the satellite and identify its sources, decision-makers will have critical information for any actions they are considering,” said CIRES scientist Gabrielle Pétron, one of the mission’s investigators. Part of President Obama’s recent Climate Action Plan calls for reductions in methane emissions.

    Besides the groups mentioned above, the research team also includes scientists from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; and the state of New Mexico.

    For more information about TOPDOWN 2015, see:



    See the full article here


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      NASA JPL Campus

      Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 2:35 pm on February 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Methane Studies,   

    From Science 2.0: “Methane Seepage Has Been Occurring For Millions Of Years” 

    Science 2.0 bloc

    Science 2.0

    There’ve been some recent environmental claims about methane seepage, flaming tapwater, but what were not staged have been due to nature. It’s a tale almost as old as earth.

    But outside environmental circles, science was always thinking about methane as much as CO2, because it has a 23X greater warming impact than CO2. Fortunately it is short-lived so trace seepage of methane from natural gas is nowhere near as devastating as CO2 from other forms of energy creation. Natural gas is why emissions from energy in America are back at early 1990s levels and emissions from coal, the dirtiest polluter, are back at early 1980s levels. Even though it is modest from natural gas, 60 percent of methane in the atmosphere comes from human activities (such as cow burps and other things) but that is nothing compared to the giga-tons of it trapped under the ocean floor of the Arctic.

    And it’s leaking.

    But fear not, it always has.

    “Our planet is leaking methane gas all the time. If you go snorkeling in the Caribbean you can see bubbles raising from the ocean floor at 25 meters depth. We studied this type of release, only in a much deeper, colder and darker environment. And found out that it has been going on, periodically, for as far back as 2.7 million years,” says Andreia Plaza Faverola, researcher at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, and the primary author behind a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

    Andreia Plaza Faverola is researcher at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Credit: Maja Sojtaric/CAGE

    Faverola is talking about Vestnesa Ridge in Fram Strait, a thousand meters under the Arctic Ocean surface offshore West-Svalbard. Here, 800 meter high gas flares rise from the seabed today. That’s the size of the tallest manmade structure in the world – Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

    “Half of Vestnesa Ridge is showing very active seepage of methane. The other half is not. But there are obvious pockmarks on the inactive half, cavities and dents in the ocean floor, that we recognized as old seepage features. So we were wondering what activates, or deactivates, the seepage in this area,” says Faverola.

    Why 2.7 million years?

    The team of marine geophysicists from CAGE used the P-Cable technology to figure it out. It is a seismic instrument that is towed behind a research vessel. It recorded the sediments beneath these pockmarks. P-Cable renders images that look like layers of a cake. It also enables scientists to visualize deep sediments in 3D.

    The Arctic Ocean floor offshore West-Svalbard. Credit: Andreia Plaza Faverola/CAGE

    “We know from other studies in the region that the sediments we are looking at in our seismic data are at least 2.7 million years old. This is the period of increase of glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, which influences the sediment. The P-Cable enabled us to see features in this sediment, associated with gas release in the past.

    “These features can be buried pinnacles or cavities that form what we call gas chimneys in the seismic data. Gas chimneys appear like vertical disturbances in the layers of our sedimentary cake. This enables us to reconstruct the evolution of gas expulsion from this area for at least 2,7 million years.”

    The seismic signal penetrated into 400 to 500 meters of sediment to map this timescale.

    How is the methane released?

    By using this method, scientists were able to identify two major events of gas emission throughout this time period: One 1,8 million years ago, the other 200,000 years ago.

    This means that there is something that activated and deactivated the emissions several times. The authors have a plausible explanation: It is the movement of the tectonic plates that influences the gas release.

    Vestnesa is not like California though, riddled with earthquakes because of the moving plates. The ridge is on a so-called passive margin. But as it turns out, it doesn´t take a huge tectonic shift to release the methane stored under the ocean floor.

    “Even though Vestnesa Ridge is on a passive margin, it is between two oceanic ridges that are slowly spreading. These spreading ridges resulted in separation of Svalbard from Greenland and opening of the Fram Strait. The spreading influences the passive margin of West-Svalbard, and even small mechanical collapse in the sediment can trigger seepage,” says Faverola.

    Where does the methane come from?

    The methane is stored as gas hydrates, chunks of frozen gas and water, up to hundreds of meters under the ocean floor. Vestnesa hosts a large gas hydrate system. There is some concern that global warming of the oceans may melt this icy gas and release it into the atmosphere. That is not very likely in this area, according to Faverola.

    “This is a deep water gas hydrate system, which means that it is in permanently cold waters and under a lot of pressure. This pressure keeps the hydrates stable and the whole system is not vulnerable to global temperature changes. But under the stable hydrates there is gas that is not frozen. The amount of this gas may increase if hydrates melt at the base of this stability zone, or if gas from deeper in the sediments arrives into the system. This could increase the pressure in this part of the system, and the free gas may escape the seafloor through chimneys. Hydrates would still remain stable in this scenario.”

    Historical methane peaks coincide with increase in temperature

    Throughout Earth´s history there have been several short periods of significant increase in temperature. And these periods often coincide with peaks of methane in the atmosphere , as recorded by ice cores. Scientists such as Plaza Faverola are still debating about the cause of this methane release in the past.

    “One hypotheses is that massive gas release from geological sources, such as volcanos or ocean sediments may have influenced global climate.. What we know is that there is a lot of methane released at present time from the ocean floor. What we need to find out is if it reaches the atmosphere, or if it ever did.”

    Historical events of methane release, such as the ones in the Vestnesa Ridge, provide crucial information that can be used in future climate modeling. Knowing if these events repeat, and identifying what makes them happen, may help us to better predict the potential influence of methane from the oceans on future climate.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:02 pm on October 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Methane Studies   

    From astrobio.net: “Scientists discover carbonate rocks are unrecognized methane sink” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Oct 18, 2014
    Andrew Thurber, 541-737-4500, athurber@coas.oregonstate.edu

    Since the first undersea methane seep was discovered 30 years ago, scientists have meticulously analyzed and measured how microbes in the seafloor sediments consume the greenhouse gas methane as part of understanding how the Earth works.

    The sediment-based microbes form an important methane “sink,” preventing much of the chemical from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas accumulation. As a byproduct of this process, the microbes create a type of rock known as authigenic carbonate, which while interesting to scientists was not thought to be involved in the processing of methane.

    Methane bubbles pour out between rocks at the seep site. The white material at lower right is a type of bacterial colony commonly observed at methane seeps. Image courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS –

    That is no longer the case. A team of scientists has discovered that these authigenic carbonate rocks also contain vast amounts of active microbes that take up methane. The results of their study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, were reported today in the journal Nature Communications.

    “No one had really examined these rocks as living habitats before,” noted Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-author on the paper. “It was just assumed that they were inactive. In previous studies, we had seen remnants of microbes in the rocks – DNA and lipids – but we thought they were relics of past activity. We didn’t know they were active.

    “This goes to show how the global methane process is still rather poorly understood,” Thurber added.

    A vast mussel community found on flat bottom as well as on rocks rising a meter or more off the seafloor. Image courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS

    Lead author Jeffrey Marlow of the California Institute of Technology and his colleagues studied samples from authigenic compounds off the coasts of the Pacific Northwest (Hydrate Ridge), northern California (Eel River Basin) and central America (the Costa Rica margin). The rocks range in size and distribution from small pebbles to carbonate “pavement” stretching dozens of square miles.

    “Methane-derived carbonates represent a large volume within many seep systems and finding active methane-consuming archaea and bacteria in the interior of these carbonate rocks extends the known habitat for methane-consuming microorganisms beyond the relatively thin layer of sediment that may overlay a carbonate mound,” said Marlow, a geobiology graduate student in the lab of Victoria Orphan of Caltech.

    These assemblages are also found in the Gulf of Mexico as well as off Chile, New Zealand, Africa, Europe – “and pretty much every ocean basin in the world,” noted Thurber, an assistant professor (senior research) in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

    The study is important, scientists say, because the rock-based microbes potentially may consume a huge amount of methane. The microbes were less active than those found in the sediment, but were more abundant – and the areas they inhabit are extensive, making their importance potential enormous. Studies have found that approximately 3-6 percent of the methane in the atmosphere is from marine sources – and this number is so low due to microbes in the ocean sediments consuming some 60-90 percent of the methane that would otherwise escape.

    Methane gas bubbles rise from the seafloor – this type of activity, originally noticed by the Okeanos Explorer in 2012 on a multibeam sonar survey, is what led scientists to the area. Image courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS

    Now those ratios will have to be re-examined to determine how much of the methane sink can be attributed to microbes in rocks versus those in sediments. The distinction is important, the researchers say, because it is an unrecognized sink for a potentially very important greenhouse gas.

    “We found that these carbonate rocks located in areas of active methane seeps are themselves more active,” Thurber said. “Rocks located in comparatively inactive regions had little microbial activity. However, they can quickly activate when methane becomes available.

    “In some ways, these rocks are like armies waiting in the wings to be called upon when needed to absorb methane.”

    The ocean contains vast amounts of methane, which has long been a concern to scientists. Marine reservoirs of methane are estimated to total more than 455 gigatons and may be as much as 10,000 gigatons carbon in methane. A gigaton is approximate 1.1 billion tons.

    By contrast, all of the planet’s gas and oil deposits are thought to total about 200-300 gigatons of carbon.

    See the full article here.


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