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Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic Circle

RAL Space scientists have been to Finland to test new methods of monitoring emissions of one of the major contributors to global warming.

Wetlands found inside the Arctic Circle, near Sodankylä in Finland’s Lapland region were the destination for scientists from RAL Space’s Spectroscopy group. Tourists come to the area for its unique wildlife habitat and the spectacular Northern Lights, but the researchers are interested in monitoring methane emissions from the area. While the peat-rich environment captures carbon particularly effectively, wetlands like these represent the single biggest natural source of methane, which although it is shorter lived in the atmosphere, has greater warming properties than carbon dioxide.

The scientists from RAL Space, working with colleagues from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), have trialled new research methods that they hope will improve estimates of methane emissions down to a scale of a few hundred metres. The measurements at ground level combined with measurements from new instruments on board satellites will give better estimates of global emissions.

RAL Space Spectroscopy Group’s instrument to do this work is a multi-beam open-path laser dispersion spectrometer. It uses a new gas sensing technique that is able to measure precisely, in real time, trace gas molecules in challenging environments. The technique also allows the team to measure methane concentrations over different distances and angles, which will match future capabilities of greenhouse gas sensing satellites.

Scientists can analyse the data to quantify and locate the source of methane in the given wetland area. This is the first trial in an arctic wetland, and the researchers aim to better understand the impact of rising temperatures on high latitude wetland emissions.

The measurements taken by the RAL Space instrument are being compared with other in-situ measurements from an instrument developed by FMI mounted on a drone. At FMI Sodankylä, greenhouse gas measurements are run regularly, making it an excellent location to test and compare new monitoring equipment.

Find out more from FMI.

Last updated: 03 October 2019

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