Quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed greenhouse gas emissions

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have yet to fully understand the reason for recent trends in global methane concentrations due to the uncertainty associated with sources and sinks.

While the world has been raging with the coronavirus, greenhouse gas emissions have dropped. However, a new study shows that methane levels continued to rise in 2020 despite the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scientists at the University of Leeds have analyzed new data from Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite to identify locations with high emissions of methane, the second-largest greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. The results were presented at the Living Planet Symposium, which took place last month in Bonn, Germany.

About 40 percent of methane emissions come from natural sources, while 60 percent comes from anthropogenic sources such as agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation and landfills.

“Methane measurements since 2020 have shown the largest annual increase in methane concentrations since the 1980s, and this record was surpassed in 2021.

2020 was a unique year due to a global pandemic, yet methane concentrations continued to rise despite reduced economic activity,” the European Space Agency said in a statement.

Scientists have yet to fully understand the reason for recent trends in global methane concentrations due to the uncertainty associated with sources and sinks.

Using data from satellites, the team found that satellite measurements show the same increase in methane as surface measurements. Using Sentinel-5P’s global coverage capabilities, the team identified regions that saw significant growth throughout 2020.

Quarantine during the COVID 19 pandemic has not slowed greenhouse gas emissions 2
Photo from open sources / Map shows the annual increase in methane emissions relative to the global average annual increase. Created using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P

The data shows that 2020 was likely to be a period of high methane emissions in these regions. The satellite data was also compared to a chemical transport model called TOMCAT, which simulates methane in our atmosphere.

“Copernicus Sentinel-5P observations have shown that global wetlands continue to be a significant contributor to the atmospheric methane budget and it is important to do further work to fully understand how they will respond to changes in our climate,” said Emily Dowd of University of Leeds.

In addition to methane, previous studies have also shown that the quarantine resulted in a very modest reduction in fine particle air pollution (PM 2.5). The researchers found minimal changes in the US and Europe, while a noticeable decrease in nitric oxide was observed only in China.

In the study, they compared PM 2.5 levels over three years during the months that coincided with the lockdown phases in each region, but found no significant change.

“Intuitively, one would think that in the event of a serious quarantine, we would see dramatic changes, but we did not.

It was surprising that the impact on PM 2.5 was modest,” said study leader Melanie Hammer of the University of Washington.

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