A large, persistent methane hot spot has existed over the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest for almost a decade, confirmed by remote regional-scale ground measurements of the gas.
“A detailed analysis indicates that methane emissions in the region are actually three times larger than reported by EPA. Our analysis demonstrates that current EPA inventories are missing huge methane sources in the region,” said Manvendra Dubey, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project. “We attribute this hot spot to fugitive leaks from coal-bed methane that actually preceded recent concerns about potential emissions from fracking,” Dubey said.
A team of LANL, NASA and University of Michigan scientists reported these results in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming.
The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.