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...
Greenhouse Gas Inventories Underestimate Methane Emissions

Greenhouse Gas Inventories Underestimate Methane Emissions

SOURCE: EOS and Journal of Geophysical Research DATE: November 13, 2018 SNIP: As cities around the world continue to swell, urban dwellers account for a larger and larger share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report attributes more than 70% of anthropogenic emissions to cities. To mitigate climate change, scientists and policy makers believe it is crucial to establish reliable estimates of urban emissions and their sources. Recent research suggests that state and national greenhouse gas inventories poorly characterize urban emissions—particularly for methane, which carries more global warming potency than carbon dioxide on a per mass basis over a 20-year horizon. Now Ren et al. suggest these inventory estimates may actually be lower than observed values, by a factor of nearly 3 in some metropolitan areas. The results indicate that landfills play a more significant role in methane emissions than previously believed: The total methane emitted from the monitored dumps exceeded prior estimates by a factor of roughly 2. One site alone, the Brown Station landfill, spewed greater than 9 times more methane than the values reported by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, even though the landfill gas collection and control system was in operation on the site. The study also found that the region’s natural gas system—another major source of pollution—accounts for 40%–60% of the region’s methane emissions. The researchers have been working closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment to get the best possible inventories so that the state can reach its rigorous greenhouse gas reduction...
Driven by Trump Policy Changes, Fracking Booms on Public Lands

Driven by Trump Policy Changes, Fracking Booms on Public Lands

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: October 27, 2018 SNIP: Reversing a trend in the final years of the Obama presidency, the Trump administration is auctioning off millions of acres of drilling rights to oil and gas developers, a central component of the White House’s plan to work hand in glove with the industry to promote more domestic energy production. Seeing growth and profit opportunities at a time of rising oil prices and a pro-business administration, big energy companies like Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, and Anschutz Exploration are seizing on the federal lands free-for-all, as they collectively buy up tens of thousands of acres of new leases and apply for thousands of permits to drill. In total, more than 12.8 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels were offered for lease in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, triple the average offered during President Barack Obama’s second term. Like the acreage offered for lease, the acreage actually leased by energy companies on federal lands hit its highest level last year since 2012, the height of the initial fracking boom in the United States. After 2012, a combination of Obama administration policy decisions and lower oil prices slowed demand for new drilling rights, a trend reversed since President Trump took office. That reversal has been propelled in part by the Interior Department’s willingness to go along with industry pressure to weaken rules that govern how these federal lands can be used, as regulators follow detailed industry scripts for rollbacks in protections for wildlife, air quality and groundwater supplies, documents show. The number of drilling rigs operating in the state...
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...