Single-blind test of nine methane-sensing satellite systems from three continents

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 3 of this Preprint.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.


Download Preprint


Evan David Sherwin , Sahar Head El Abbadi, Philippine M. Burdeau, Zhan Zhang, Zhenlin Chen, Jeffrey S. Rutherford, Yuanlei Chen , Adam R Brandt 


Satellite-based remote sensing enables detection and mitigation of large point sources of climate-warming methane. These satellites will have the greatest impact if stakeholders have a clear-eyed assessment of their capabilities. We performed a single-blind test of nine methane-sensing satellites from three continents and five countries, including both commercial and government satellites. Over two months, we conducted 82 controlled methane releases during satellite overpasses. Six teams analyzed the resulting data, producing 134 estimates of methane emissions. Of these, 80 (58%) were correctly identified, with 46 true positive detections (34%) and 34 true negative non-detections (25%). There were 41 false negatives and 0 false positives, in which teams incorrectly claimed methane was present. All eight satellites that were given a nonzero emission detected methane at least once, including the first single-blind evaluation of the EnMAP, Gaofen 5, and Ziyuan 1 systems. In percent terms, quantification error across all satellites and teams is similar to aircraft-based methane remote sensing systems, with 55% of mean estimates falling within ±50% of the metered value. Although teams correctly detected emissions as low as 0.03 metric tons of methane per hour, it is unclear whether detection performance in this test is representative of real-world field performance. Full retrieval fields submitted by all teams suggest that in some cases it may be difficult to distinguish true emissions from background artifacts without a known source location. Cloud interference is significant and appears to vary across teams and satellites. This work confirms the basic efficacy of the tested satellite systems in detecting and quantifying methane, providing additional insight into detection limits and informing experimental design for future satellite-focused controlled methane release testing campaigns.



Atmospheric Sciences, Other Civil and Environmental Engineering


methane, Hyperspectral Imaging, Remote Sensing, satellite, single-blind, controlled release, Hyperspectral Imaging, remote sensing, satellite, single-blind, controlled release


Published: 2023-06-28 02:50

Last Updated: 2023-07-06 22:36

Older Versions

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
There are no competing interests to declare.

Data Availability (Reason not available):
All data and code required to reproduce the figures and analysis in this paper will be made available prior to publication. Due to ongoing analysis of other parts of the study, we are currently refraining from sharing raw data publicly as of June 2023.