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Mysterious Plumes of Methane Gas Appear Over Bangladesh

Satellites show large, frequent emissions over Dhaka—the latest discovery as scientists hunt for sources of the potent greenhouse gas 

Children collect goods from the garbage in the Buriganga River in Dhaka in Dec. 2020. Methane concentrations in the country likely originate from many sources including paddy fields, landfills, leaky natural gas pipelines and coal stockpiles.

Children collect goods from the garbage in the Buriganga River in Dhaka in Dec. 2020. Methane concentrations in the country likely originate from many sources including paddy fields, landfills, leaky natural gas pipelines and coal stockpiles.

Photographer: Mushfiqul Alam/NurPhoto/Getty Images

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One of the countries most vulnerable to climate change has also been revealed as a major contributor of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s about 80 times more potent in its first two decades in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. 

The 12 highest methane emission rates detected this year by Kayrros SAS have occurred over Bangladesh, according to the Paris-based company, one of several that specialize in analyzing satellite observations to locate leaks. “It has the strongest sustained emissions we've seen to date where we can’t clearly identify the source,” said Stephane Germain, president of GHGSat Inc, which also picked up the plumes.

Bluefield Technologies Inc., which analyzed European Space Agency data to identify a large methane plume in Florida in May, also detected the concentrations over Bangladesh. “Our analysis shows that Bangladesh has some of the highest methane emissions in the world that can be detected by satellites,” said Yotam Ariel, the company’s founder.