Cows Burp Enough Methane to Be Spotted by Satellites

Medscape Staff

May 06, 2022

Methane from cattle burping in a California feed lot has been detected on satellites in something scientists studying animal science at the University of California at Davis say sheds light on how agriculture may be contributing to climate change.

What to know:

  • Microbes in the stomachs of cattle break down the grassy fibers they eat and creates methane gas. About 95% gets released as burps, and the rest is released in breath and as flatulence.

  • For the first time, the burping of cattle while chewing on feed in California's San Joaquin Valley has been found to generate large enough plumes of greenhouse gases to be detected by satellites.

  • Methane emissions detected February 2 by satellites from the just one feedlot near Bakersfield, California, ranged from 977 pounds to 1472 pounds per hour ― a rate that if sustained for a year would release 5116 tons of gas, which is enough to power 15,402 homes.

  • Methane is more than 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global-warming agent. Emissions are largely from human activity, including agriculture, in which cattle are the biggest source.

  • A panel of United Nations–backed scientists warns that global methane emissions must be reduced by a third by 2030 to help slow the planet's warming.

This is a summary of the article, "Emission Accomplished: Cattle Burp Methane Expulsion Measured From Space for First Time," published by the Science X Network on May 2, 2022. The full article can be found on

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