Google is putting its mapping cars to work on a problem much bigger than the changing facade of your local bodega: urban methane leaks. Google’s camera-equipped cars have recently been driving through three U.S. cities with gas monitors, and now the results are available in map form. Residents of Boston, Staten Island, and Indianapolis can see where gas leaks are most intense throughout their cities here. Staten Island, unsurprisingly, has almost 1,000 leaks, “an average of about one leak for every mile we drove.”
Methane leaks can be dangerous for a host of reasons in the short term, including their ability to cause explosions and dizziness, nausea, and headache. Long term, methane is an environmental scourge, trapping heat 30 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. As Google’s maps show, small leaks are rampant in major American cities, and while they may not be producing as much methane as the digestive tracts of America’s cattle, they’re a problem that should be dealt with, eventually.