After inquiries from a geoanalytical firm called Kayrros and from journalists, Gazprom acknowledged a colossal methane release, though the energy company remained secretive, declining to disclose the exact location of the leak.

New satellites devoted to locating and measuring greenhouse gases are orbiting Earth, with more on the way. These sentinels in the sky are auguring an era of data transparency as their patrons seek to safeguard the planet by closing the gap between the amount of methane that scientists know is in the atmosphere versus what is reported from the ground — industry by industry, pipeline by pipeline, leak by leak.

Satellites can provide real time evidence of massive, unreported methane leaks — and who is responsible for them. That information can help officials hold the polluting companies accountable or expose governments that hide or ignore dangerous emissions that are warming the world. “The atmosphere doesn’t lie,” said Daniel Jacob, an atmospheric scientist at Harvard University who uses satellite measurements to try to interpret the world’s methane emissions.

The satellite revelations could further complicate a critical United Nations climate summit in Scotland in November, known as COP26, where world leaders will face pressure to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, the second-most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, accounts for roughly a quarter of global warming since the industrial revolution, according to NASA. It is the chief component of natural gas.

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