If Trees Could Talk: Using Tree Health to Identify Methane Leaks

Authors: Georgienna Driver*,
Topics: Energy, Environment, Urban Geography
Keywords: energy, environment, pipeline, methane, vegetation, NDVI, kriging
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has been leaking underneath urban communities across the country, mostly due to aging and corroding underground pipes. This problem has come to the fore as a significant source of human-caused methane (CH4) emissions which pose serious health and safety hazards for nearby residents and represent economic losses for communities, and utilities. Researchers have proposed many methods for locating and identifying pipeline anomalies, but none to date have been able to demonstrate efficient and replicable methods of leak detection and verification. This study focuses on dying vegetation, particularly stressed trees, which are common signs and strong indicators for hidden methane leaks. By gathering data from a citywide street tree census and street level methane measurements, we are able to analyze the relationship between ambient methane concentrations and tree health by using kriging analysis. Understanding the relationship between local methane concentrations and tree health may offer another way of identifying methane leaks and to provide a way to quantify natural gas leak impacts for communities. This analysis is conducted in the City of Salem, Massachusetts, USA.

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