The project flight operations occurred in two separate phases. The first phase occurred in October and November 2019 and the second phase occurred in July and August 2021. The project was not continuous between the dates 10/28/2019 and 08/16/2021; however these dates represent the start of the first phase and the end of the second phase.
MethaneAIR is a NSF-funded airborne deployment of an airborne imaging spectrometer, which development was sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and private philanthropy as part of the EDF International Methane project. The first scientific goal of the International Methane project is to accurately measure emissions of CH4 from oil and gas production and processing facilities across the world, in order to define and track this major contribution to the rise of this greenhouse gas and pollutant in the global atmosphere. Representative observations of other major emission sources (landfills, coal mines, etc) are included.
MethaneAIR is the precursor of MethaneSAT, EDF's small satellite intended to revolutionize measurements and modeling of emissions of CH4 at regional (100s of km) and fine scales (< 1 km), across the globe. The MethaneAIR and MethaneSAT spectrometers use the same wavelengths, spectral sampling, and resolution. The deployment of the MethaneAIR instrument on the NSF Gulfsteam-V aircraft is an important step before launching the MathaneSAT instrument into space.
MethaneAIR measures total column dry air mole fraction (DAMF) of CH4 and CO2 (XCH4 and XCO2). DAMF measurements from aircraft and satellite are extraordinarily powerful for regional and large-scale source determination because they directly determine the mass loading of the atmosphere. MethaneAIR retrieves total column amounts of CH4 and CO2 using a radiative transfer model to analyze absorption spectra at 1.6 – 1.7 µm, observed in sunlight reflected from the ground. MethaneAIR normalizes these total columns by total column O2 that it measures in the 1.27 µm band of O2. Spatial and spectral resolutions (6 x 20 m, 0.05 nm, respectively) are much higher than previous measurements of this type. The swath will nevertheless be quite wide, about 7 km from 30 kft.
The MethaneAIR project has two phases. Phase 1 include original test flights which were done between October and November 2019 onboard the GV. Phase 2 is the MethaneAIR project field phase operating out of RMMA with final data collection and takes place between July and August 2021.