Strongest increase in methane since the start of the measurements


Methane, the second dangerous greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2), increased at a record pace last year. The concentration in the atmosphere increased by 17 ppb (parts per billion). This is the highest increase since records began in 1983, the U.S. Ocean and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) reported based on measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. By 2020, the methane concentration had already risen faster than at any time since the measurements began.

Methane (CH4) does not stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2, but in the first 20 years has a greenhouse effect that is about 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide. The two significant increases in a row show that the concentration of the second most important greenhouse gas, such as atmospheric CO2, is currently increasing at an accelerated pace. At 1,896 ppb (parts per billion), the methane concentration is more than two and a half times higher than before the start of industrialization, writes the German science magazine Spektrum.

Methane is more powerful than carbon dioxide
As the report further states, it is not definitively clarified why the methane concentration in the atmosphere is currently increasing so rapidly. At the turn of the millennium, the methane level was stable for about ten years, only since 2007 it has risen sharply again. Where the extra gas comes from is even disputed among experts.

The sources are difficult to prove with certainty because there are many natural and artificial sources of methane, including in agriculture, the changes of which are not easy to measure. Numerous experts suspect that leaks in the production (e.g. fracking) and distribution of natural gas are the main cause of the problem, as its production has increased significantly since the turn of the millennium – but there are also analyzes that contradict this.

CH4 is released when permafrost thaws
Recently, researchers warned in the journal “Nature Climate Change” that Europe’s permafrost peatlands could soon reach a tipping point and release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane as a result of ongoing global warming. If methane escapes unchecked from permafrost, it fuels the climate crisis – a vicious circle. Scientists speak of tipping points that can no longer be reversed.

In view of last week’s drama, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took drastic words when presenting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report: “We are on the fast track to the climate catastrophe.”

Source: Krone


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