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Cattle Burp Methane Emissions Measured From Space for First Time

  • Methane plume over California feedlot mapped in February
  • Annual gas emissions from site enough to power 15,000 homes
Satellite imagery shows methane concentration near the Bear 5 feedlot
Satellite imagery shows methane concentration near the Bear 5 feedlotGHGSat Inc.

Cattle burping while chowing on feed in California’s San Joaquin Valley generated plumes of a powerful greenhouse gas that have been detected by satellites for the first time, shedding light on how agriculture may be contributing to climate change. 

Methane emissions from the Bear 5 feedlot near Bakersfield ranged from 443 kilograms (977 pounds) to 668 kilograms per hour on Feb. 2, according to GHGSat Inc., which owns high-resolution satellites. If those emissions are sustained for a year, the cattle would release 5,116 tons of gas, enough to power 15,402 homes, the Montreal-based company said in a statement.