Sharp rise in methane levels threatens world climate targets

Sharp rise in methane levels threatens world climate targets

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 17, 2019 SNIP: Dramatic rises in atmospheric methane are threatening to derail plans to hold global temperature rises to 2C, scientists have warned. In a paper published this month by the American Geophysical Union, researchers say sharp rises in levels of methane – which is a powerful greenhouse gas – have strengthened over the past four years. Urgent action is now required to halt further increases in methane in the atmosphere, to avoid triggering enhanced global warming and temperature rises well beyond 2C. “What we are now witnessing is extremely worrying,” said one of the paper’s lead authors, Professor Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway, University of London. “It is particularly alarming because we are still not sure why atmospheric methane levels are rising across the planet.” [Ed note: Perhaps these guys need to get together with these guys.] During much of the 20th century, levels of methane, mostly from fossil fuel sources, increased in the atmosphere but, by the beginning of the 21st century, it had stabilised, said Nisbet. “Then, to our surprise, levels starting rising in 2007. That increase began to accelerate after 2014 and fast growth has continued.” Studies suggest these increases are more likely to be mainly biological in origin. However, the exact cause remains unclear. Some researchers believe the spread of intense farming in Africa may be involved, in particular in tropical regions where conditions are becoming warmer and wetter because of climate change. However, other scientists warn that there could be a more sinister factor at work. Natural chemicals in the atmosphere – which help to break down methane...
Melting ice sheets release tons of methane into the atmosphere

Melting ice sheets release tons of methane into the atmosphere

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: January 3, 2019 SNIP: The Greenland Ice Sheet emits tons of methane according to a new study, showing that subglacial biological activity impacts the atmosphere far more than previously thought. An international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol camped for three months next to the Greenland Ice Sheet, sampling the meltwater that runs off a large catchment (> 600 km2) of the Ice Sheet during the summer months. As reported in Nature, using novel sensors to measure methane in meltwater runoff in real time, they observed that methane was continuously exported from beneath the ice. They calculated that at least six tons of methane was transported to their measuring site from this portion of the Ice Sheet alone. Professor Jemma Wadham, Director of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, who led the investigation, said: “A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escapes the Greenland Ice Sheet in large, fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2, a typical fate for methane gas which normally reduces its greenhouse warming...
Iceland Volcano and Glacier are Releasing Huge Amounts of Methane

Iceland Volcano and Glacier are Releasing Huge Amounts of Methane

SOURCE: Newsweek and Scientific Reports DATE: November 20, 2018 SNIP: Huge amounts of methane are being released from a glacier connected to Katla—one of Iceland’s largest and most active volcanoes. Researchers found that up to 41 tonnes of methane is released through meltwater from the Sólheimajökull glacier every day over the summer months. The study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first to show methane is released from glaciers on such a large scale. Methane is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. It is becoming of increasing concern because of its potential to contribute to climate change. In Arctic regions, methane is locked up in permafrost—ground that is permanently frozen. As global temperatures increase, the soil thaws and methane is released, contributing to further warming. Identifying and understanding previously unrecognized sources of methane—like the latest study on glaciers—is hugely important to climate change models. If this volcano and glacier is representative of other similar systems, it could mean masses of previously unaccounted methane are being released into the atmosphere. The team took water samples from the edge of the lake in front of the glacier to measure the concentrations of methane. They found that compared to other nearby rivers and sediments, the levels were far higher. The highest concentrations of methane were at the point where the river emerges from beneath the glacier. Further analysis allowed them to find the exact sources of the methane—microbiological activity on the glacier bed. When methane comes into contact with oxygen it normally combines to form carbon dioxide. However, at Sólheimajökull when the meltwater reaches the bed of the glacier...
Rice farming up to twice as bad for climate change as previously thought, study reveals

Rice farming up to twice as bad for climate change as previously thought, study reveals

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: September 10, 2018 SNIP: Rice farming is known to be a major contributor to climate change, but new research suggests it is far bigger a problem than previously thought. Techniques intended to reduce emissions while also cutting water use may in fact be boosting some greenhouse gases, meaning the impact of rice cultivation may be up to twice as bad as previous estimates suggest. Scientists at the US-based advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund suggest the short-term warming impact of these additional gases in the atmosphere could be equivalent to 1,200 coal power plants. The main culprit is methane, a potent greenhouse gas emitted from flooded rice fields as bacteria in the waterlogged soil produce it in large quantities. However, there is another gas produced by rice fields that can have a harmful climate effect. Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is also produced by soil microbes in rice fields. “The full climate impact of rice farming has been significantly underestimated because up to this point, nitrous dioxide emissions from intermittently flooded farms have not been included,” said Dr Kritee Kritee from the Environmental Defense Fund, who led the research. Despite being a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right that traps even more heat in the atmosphere than methane over long time periods, most rice producing countries do not report their nitrous oxide...
Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air

Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: September 10, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere. Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome. The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations. Methane makes up only about nine percent of greenhouse gases, but it is around 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. About one-third of methane pollution is estimated to come from oil and gas operations. The forthcoming proposals from the E.P.A. and Interior Department would allow far more methane to leak from oil and gas drilling operations, environmentalists say. “These leaks can pop up any time, anywhere, up and down the oil and gas supply chain,” said Matt Watson, a specialist in methane pollution with the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group. “The longer you go in between inspections, the longer leaks will go...