MethaneAIR is a crucial innovation in EDF’s work to find and reduce emissions of methane, a potent, planet-warming greenhouse gas.
Developed by scientists from EDF, Harvard and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, MethaneAIR deploys groundbreaking technology aboard a jet to track methane from oil and gas operations and other sectors.
Scientific instruments on the research jet can detect emissions with unparalleled precision, allowing MethaneAIR to provide a detailed look at methane pollution over wide areas, from sources large and small.
The project has enabled our team to demonstrate and refine the revolutionary approach to slow global warming that will be used by MethaneSAT, a satellite EDF has built and is launching this year.
How MethaneAIR is making a difference for our climate
"The hardest step of reducing methane emissions can just be not knowing where they’re coming from," says EDF senior climate scientist Ilissa Ocko.
That’s where MethaneAIR excels. By revealing the sources of this invisible gas, it’s designed to help industry and regulators achieve faster, more effective reductions in emissions.
Fossil fuel operations, agriculture and landfills are all sources of methane emissions. MethaneAIR can map methane from all these sectors.
The aircraft has flown over major U.S. oil and gas regions to gather data, laying the groundwork for MethaneSAT, which will take this work global — and help hold polluters accountable.
Did you know? Natural gas is mostly made of methane, a climate pollutant that is accelerating global warming. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release.
Inside MethaneAIR, our eye in the sky on methane
How it works: MethaneAIR is a Learjet that’s been specially modified to hunt for methane from high altitudes.
The aircraft operates at about 40,000 feet, above most commercial air traffic. (Greenhouse gas emissions from flights are carefully calculated and offset through investment in high-integrity emission reduction projects.)
On board, instruments called imaging spectrometers measure methane in the atmosphere with unparalleled sensitivity, tracking changes in atmospheric concentrations as small as 3 parts per billion.
MethaneSAT will use similar methods to map methane over even larger areas and rapidly make that data publicly available.
How we got to this methane moment
MethaneAIR and MethaneSAT build on more than a decade of EDF driving action on methane.
With partners, we analyzed methane emissions in the world’s largest oil field; deployed methane detection sensors on everything from cars to cell phone towers; and helped put methane at the forefront of the global climate agenda.
Next up: The data from MethaneAIR and MethaneSAT will enable companies and governments to speed up emissions cuts. At this critical point in the climate crisis, there’s no time to waste.
Senior Vice President, Chief Scientist
Lead Senior Scientist
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Canada Oil and Gas Emissions
Senior Climate Scientist II, Barbra Streisand Chair of Environmental Studies
Senior Scientist, Global Methane
Senior Scientist II