Thursday, April 24, 2008

Methane Levels on the Rise Again

After being fairly stable for almost 10 years methane levels in the atmosphere went up in 2007. This gloomy news was reported yesterday by the US Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). How gloomy this news really is depends on why methane levels are increasing again. The gloomiest reason would be that thawing permafrost in Arctic areas are releasing methane, a positive feedback from rising global temperature. Such a release of methane has been reported by researchers but according to scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory the most probable reasons for the recent increase in methane are rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics. Dlugokencky also said that ”We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost. It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.” As almost a side note, the NOAA scientists found that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to surge upward, with the annual rate of increase again exceeding 2 parts per million (the increase was 2.4 ppm) which has been a disturbing trend that began after the year 2000. The level of carbon dioxide is now 385 ppm. That’s 35 ppm above the level that climate scientist James Hansen now says we should be aiming for. Needless to say, things don’t look good.

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