Flatulent cows’ effect on environment to be scientifically measured… by lasers

It sounds like the premise to a bad joke, but a team of scientists using lasers has been commissioned to find out just how much gas Britain’s cows are releasing into the atmosphere.

The agriculture industry is thought to be responsible for around eight percent of all British greenhouse gas emissions, thanks mainly to the less-than-fresh releases from cattle and other farm animals. But the exact figure is unknown. After all, how straightforward would it be to measure the methane escaping from a cow’s derriere?

As the government is committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 34 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, Defra has asked a team of experts from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington to develop an accurate way of measuring the flatulence from a herd of cows. The endeavor will be part of a £12.6m project into understanding how farming leads to climate change.

To reliably measure the gas, scientists plan to use lasers to monitor the atmosphere across an entire field.

Alan Brewin, who is overseeing the project, told The Telegraph“We use lasers to interact with the gas in the field. The way the light is absorbed tells you what gas there is, how much of it there is, which direction it is flowing in and how fast.”


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