(ORDO NEWS) — According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), methane levels in the atmosphere are “rising at a dangerous rate.” The reason for the extreme growth could be global warming.
The report was compiled by an international team of researchers based on NOAA data for 2021
Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas. It enters the atmosphere both naturally, such as from wetlands, and from anthropogenic sources, such as animal husbandry.
In the new study, the team found that atmospheric methane levels have risen to over 1,900 parts per billion (ppb), three times the levels seen before the industrial revolution.
This “dismal new milestone” may be due to global warming causing wetlands to expand, which then produce higher levels of methane.
Methane growth began to slow in 2000, but in 2007 there was a “mysterious spike” that made researchers worried.
Carbon has two stable isotopes, carbon-12 and carbon-13. The methane produced by microbes that have consumed carbon in wetlands or in the intestines of a cow contains less carbon-13 isotope than methane from fossil fuels.
By studying methane from the atmosphere and what was “locked up” in ice cores, scientists found that for two centuries after the start of the industrial revolution, the amount of methane containing carbon-13 increased, but in 2007 the situation reversed.
Researchers attribute this to the increase in microbial sources of methane over the past 15 years, which can be obtained from livestock or more productive wetlands.
It turns out a system with positive feedback: the more methane in the atmosphere, the warmer it is, and the more methane is produced by terrestrial ecosystems. The authors of the work note that humanity urgently needs to understand how to reduce anthropogenic sources of methane.
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