Sunday, 25 May 2008

Methane and more

Photo from Flickr user oobrien. Creative Commons licence.

Methane levels in the atmosphere rose steeply from the 1970s to the 1990s, but has been stable over the last ten years, until 2007, when it climbed again.

Methane is the second most important gas causing man-made climate change. It causes about 25 times more warming than carbon dioxide, but it survives for a shorter time before it is broken down, and there is less of it in the atmosphere. Overall it has about half the impact of carbon dioxide.

The stabilisation of the increasing levels has probably been the result of

  • industrial reform
  • changes in rice farming methods
  • the capture of methane from landfill sites

One of the stations monitoring methane levels and noticing indications of an increase is Svalbard in Norway. Although this increase could be from several sources,their findings suggest that it is from natural causes:

  • reversion to older rice farming methods
  • drying out of tropical wetlands
  • release of methane from permafrost
  • from hydrate deposits on the ocean floor.

but the most likely is that it is coming from wetlands.

Cattle are often cited as sources of methane, as indeed they are, though far from the worst. There has been recent news that Australian scientists are developing a type of "burpless" grass which produces far less methane one processed by the cow. Whether this will be a successful way of reducing greenhouse emissions remains to be seen. Other scientists suggest this grass could even raise methane production from cattle.


  1. Interesting post and you make a great point here. Maybe less hamburgers and other fast food will do!

  2. Not going to challenge your methane vs other gasses "warming" ratio, nor even ask who in the world does such studies. I will accept them because you sound so sincere about their accuracy.

    My main comment was to tell you how pleased I was to read that the Aussies are about to come up with burpless grass... I have been waiting ever so long. Was about to give up on them and look to the Kiwis, who may have a methane problem of their own, albeit somewhat more wooly I would imagine.

    No, that 's not true either. I really want to comment on your other post and tell you how much I now respect your late mother for leaving me such a fine new friend. :)

  3. And don't think your visits to the pub have passed unnoticed. I see all and read all. :)

  4. Thanks Renny :)

    YB, or should I call you Jammy Dodger, or Artful Dodger, or, or... The links are there for you to read and trace back to the studies. In one of them you will find that the Australian team were actually working with a New Zealand rural services group, so both your concerns covered in one fell swoop. Are you being disruptive again? :)

    I know my visits don't go unnoticed, nor do yours. :)


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