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‘Gloomy’ emissions data shows methane rising

NOAA carbon diox graph.jpgLevels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 0.6% last year according to NOAA. Perhaps more worryingly methane levels also rose, for the first time since 1998.

Last year, according to new figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saw the joint third highest rise in global carbon dioxide concentrations since measurements began in 1998. NOAA says 2.4 molecules of carbon dioxide were added to every million molecules in the air, totalling around 19 billion tonnes and taking concentrations to 385 parts per million (press release).

“It’s gloomy,” says NOAA’s Pieter Tans (Retuers). “With carbon dioxide emissions, we’re on the wrong track, it’s obvious. And I’m also fully convinced that we’re in actually quite a dangerous situation for climate.”

However 2.4 ppm isn’t that unusual and the agency says annual increases of 2 ppm or more have been common since 2000 (click carbon dioxide graph right for longer term trend graph). The methane figures are potentially more troubling.


NOAA methane graph.jpgMethane is a far more effective global warmer than carbon dioxide and last year saw another 27 million tonnes of it in the atmosphere after a decade of no change (click methane graph left for longer term trend graph).

There have been some concerns that a warmer Earth could trigger a huge release of methane from deposits in Arctic permafrost.

”We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” says NOAA’s Ed Dlugokencky. “It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.”

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Graphs: NOAA

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    Marc said:

    It appears that the concentrations of these gases are simply going to keep increasing under our current energy policy. We are already seeing worldwide glacial melt, arctic lakes disappearing and/or bubbling with methane, and more severe weather events. Possible causes have been cited below:

    Maybe those temperature measurements in the cities are seeing a false warming (Glaciers do not respond to false readings).

    Maybe it’s cosmic rays (discounted- http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/07/no-link-between.html).

    Maybe it’s volcanoes (have there been lots of volcanoes lately?)

    Maybe it’s those sun spots (11-year strong cycles, with larger, less severe cycles)

    Maybe it’s the Earth’s orbit (10,000 year half-cycle, not 150 years)

    Maybe it’s just natural and has nothing to do with what we are adding to the atmosphere- afterall, it has been found the CO2 trails temperature by 800 or so years (this is the latest, yet more credible claim by the status quo’ers).

    The only catch here is that those past changes WERE natural in origin, and it does prove a link between temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration. The grandest of these temperature changes are the result of the Earth’s orbit (look up Milankovitch cycles). The ocean turnover cycle has been estimated at 1500 years (http://www.gcrio.org/USGCRP/sustain/tans.html). Half a cycle, about 750 years, could possibly account for this measured delay. Here, the main driver for CO2 changes is the Earth’s orbit (and thus, temperature), animal/plant life, and the amount of CO2 in equilibration between the ocean and atmosphere).

    Today, we are rapidly adding CO2 to the atmosphere. The ocean is absorbing it, and the surface layers have reached relative saturation in some areas (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6665147.stm).

    Has anyone thought about what will happen in 800 years, when there will be higher temperatures, and a high-CO2 concentration returning to the ocean surface? I know… not our problem.

    In an unrelated, but surprising event that was found off of the coast of Namibia: there were once swarms of sardines in the ocean. This attracted fishing on a great scale. Now the bilions of sardines are gone, the fishing industry is gone, and now the ocean periodically belches methane and hydrogen sulfide in great amounts, killing schools of fish and polluting the local atmosphere. It has been found that there were high concentrations of phytoplankton in that coastal region. This attracted the sardines. Now that the sardines are gone, there are even more phytoplankton, which die and settle on the ocean floor, creating a high concentration of decaying organic matter. This forms huge pockets of gas (methane and hydrogen sulfide), which erupt violently. Who ever thought that fishing could be related to toxic gas eruptions, and yet here they are. Who ever thought that running a power plant would destroy the planet’s climate system?

    Take caution with what you do not know. This is a grand experiment on the largest scale we can work with. The results will also be grand.