Cattle burps detected through satellite for the first time

Published May 16, 2022, 5:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin Agriculture

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

It has been established that cattle burps, as silly as it sounds, are massive contributors to climate change. When cattle release gas from their body, they also release methane, which is the second most prominent greenhouse gas.

Technology to monitor methane emission is being developed to assess the impact of the cattle industry. In one important leap in this field, methane from cattle burps has been mapped and detected through satellite for the first time.

Satellite data from GHGSat Inc., an environmental data company, revealed that methane emissions from a feedlot in the San Joaquin Valley of California amounted to 443-668kg of methane per hour on February 2, 2022. If the methane emissions from the feedlot are sustained for a year, this will generate 5,116 tons of methane which is capable of providing power to 15,402 homes.

Detecting methane through satellites has been difficult before because methane emissions are easily diffused by the wind. The findings of GHGSat were made possible due to advancements in satellite image reading. They recorded the images using high-resolution satellites that orbited at an altitude of 500km.

Methane is 84 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the United Nations warned that global methane emissions must be reduced to a third by 2030 to help slow the planet’s warming.

The cattle industry has been exploring ways to reduce their impact on the environment. They have been investing in new technologies like a mask for cows that catches methane. They have also been modifying their feed content. For example, one of the world’s largest dairy exporters, stated in April 2022 that they are experimenting with a seaweed feed supplement that could possibly reduce methane emissions by 80%.