Harvard Hosts International Workshop on Remote Sensing of Methane

At a workshop hosted by Harvard, leaders of the global effort to track methane emissions with satellite technology discussed how to coordinate their technical approaches and other opportunities for collaboration.
By Rob Stowe & Daniel Varon

Harvard Professor Daniel Jacob and his team, including Research Associate Daniel Varon, hosted an international workshop on June 7-8, 2023, titled “International Coordination Workshop on Detection of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions from High-resolution Satellites.” The workshop was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), with the support of the Global Methane Hub (GMH). The aim of the workshop was to coordinate international efforts on satellite-based remote sensing of methane, with a focus on data sharing and collaboration to support climate goals.

Professor Jacob and Dr. Varon are affiliates of the Initiative on Reducing Global Methane Emissions of the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability at Harvard University. Jacob is Harvard’s Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering.

Leaders from across the research community were in attendance, including from a number of governmental, intergovernmental, and non-profit organizations. Among the organizations represented were NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the European Space Agency, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Carbon Mapper. Representatives of private industry and academia also attended.

Participants presented mission updates for current and upcoming satellite missions, and discussed a variety of technical and scientific problems and opportunities in methane remote sensing from the global scale down to individual point sources. Themes included:

  • data availability and accessibility;
  • data transparency and actionability;
  • anticipating the future landscape of satellite-based methane remote sensing;
  • identifying gaps in the current and future observing systems;
  • methane observability (detection limits and spatiotemporal completeness);
  • key use cases for satellite-based methane data;
  • opportunities to integrate heterogeneous methane datasets; and
  • calibration, validation, and testing of satellite methane data.