Record Methane Spike Boosts Heat Trapped by Greenhouse Gases

Record Methane Spike Boosts Heat Trapped by Greenhouse Gases thumbnail

CLIMATEWIRE | Greenhouse gases trapped 49 percent more heat in 2021 than in 1990, as emissions continued to rise rapidly, according to NOAA.

NOAA published its “Annual Greenhouse Gas Index ” last Wednesday. The index is based on thousands of air samples collected globally over each of the last 63 years; this observational method means it “contains little uncertainty,” according to the agency.

” “Our data show that global emission continue to move in a wrong direction at an alarming pace,” Rick Spinrad, NOAA Administrator.

NOAA found that carbon dioxide, the most plentiful and long-lived gas, expanded at the most rapid rate over the last 10 years. But the most potent global warmer also broke records: methane increased more than it has since at least the early 1980s, when NOAA began its current measuring record. The methane emitted in 2021 was 15 percent greater than in the 1984-2006 period, and 162 percent greater than preindustrial levels, NOAA found.

Two thirds of methane emissions are from the raising of farm animals like cows, and also from microbes living in wetlands that are becoming warmer due to CO2. Stephen Montzka is a research chemist who prepares an annual report on the Index for NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. This combination can be difficult to reduce, as can nitrous dioxide, a greenhouse gas mainly emitted through fertilizer. It could also affect food supply.

But, a third of methane is produced from sources that humans can control, Montzka stated. This includes oil and gas production. Methane is 30 times more potent than CO2 as a warmer, but only lasts about nine years to CO2’s centuries.

So far there is no evidence that methane is declining anywhere in the world due to mitigation, Montzka stated. However, in certain regions, we are able to be looking for that .”

A report released this month by the American Physical Society asserted that “the United States is not effectively monitoring methane emissions from oil and gas operations.”

Forecasting climate change impacts

Beyond methane, nitrous oxide and CO2, NOAA counts 18 other chemicals as global warmers that have emerged since 1750, the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Two of them, the chlorofluorocarbons (also known as superwarmers man-made), have been banned under treaties.

As these greenhouse gas emissions increase, climate change impacts are increasing in the form frequent extreme weather like droughts, wildfires, and heat waves. Researchers are now exploring new ways to predict such events, including artificial intelligence and powerful computers that can find patterns in large quantities of data.

Officials at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), for example, recently developed a method to forecast peak fire seasons “several months” before they developed. NCAR used machine-learning techniques on every wildfire since 1984 to discover that the growing dryness of the air in winter and spring preceded the summer expansion of wildfires.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that new, cheaper, but also more accurate, water detectors could provide better estimates of the extent of the decline in water supplies. These devices, which are about the same size as two credit cards, can easily be placed in yards from streams and use high-frequency radio waves (HFR) to measure the depth.

The proliferation of the devices, which don’t need experts to install them, could give communities “more insight into their water usage and supply over time” and could be used to develop difficult policy decisions about future water usage, according to the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, which frequently partners with NOAA laboratories.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from

Read More