Though not as prevalent in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas. Occurring naturally as well as being manmade, methane is much shorter-lived than CO2, but it is fast acting and twenty to eighty times as effective at trapping heat. A little extra methane goes a long way.
In addition, methane is invisible, which makes detection by conventional means difficult. So when UC Santa Barbara researcher Satish Kumar and colleagues noted the growing use of infrared sensing as a means of greenhouse gas detection, as was highlighted in a recent New York Times story, they were pleased. The interactive piece used infrared cameras to track emissions from oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin, an oil field located in Texas and New Mexico.
It’s a topic close to his heart — as a member of electrical and computer engineering professor B.S. Manjunath’s Vision Research Lab, Kumar does work involving multimedia signal processing and analysis.