Where’s the methane?

One of the major greenhouse global warming gases is methane.  Scientists have discovered that there is not nearly as much methane in the atmosphere as their computer models predicted there should be. 

Scientists say that there has been a mysterious decline in the growth of methane in the atmosphere in the last decades of the 20th Century.

Researchers writing in the journal Nature have come up with two widely differing theories as to the cause.

One suggests the decline was caused by greater commercial use of natural gas, the other that increased use in Asia of artificial fertiliser was responsible.

Both studies agree that human activities are the key element.

And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.

Methane is regarded as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping over 20 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, levels of methane in the atmosphere have more than doubled from a wide variety of sources, including energy production, the burning of forests, and increased numbers of cattle and sheep.

But between 1980 and the turn of the millennium, the growth rate reduced substantially, leaving scientists puzzled as to the cause.

Now, two teams of researchers have arrived at two very different conclusions for the decline. The first study was led by Dr Murat Aydin from the University of California, Irvine.

“We went after ethane – it’s another hydrocarbon similar to methane, it has common sources, but is easier to trace. We determined what ethane did during the second half of the 20th century using ancient air that we collected at polar ice sheets.

“We think the trend we see in methane is best explained by dramatic changes in emissions linked to fossil fuel production and use which seem to have declined in the 1980s and 1990s.

via BBC News – New theories over methane puzzle.

The big question, then, is what this does to the global warming scare.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Is it possible the problem may be found in the original “computer models” rather than with the empirical data which is observed? I have noticed a reticence of some “scientists” to question their initial paradigms when presented with facts which either do not support or outright contradict their initial suppositions. At the very basic level, I have suggested all meteorologists should have an office with at least one clean window to empirically verify atmospheric conditions prior to issuing a forecast.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Is it possible the problem may be found in the original “computer models” rather than with the empirical data which is observed? I have noticed a reticence of some “scientists” to question their initial paradigms when presented with facts which either do not support or outright contradict their initial suppositions. At the very basic level, I have suggested all meteorologists should have an office with at least one clean window to empirically verify atmospheric conditions prior to issuing a forecast.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Jonathan

    Good one, Dennis.

  • Jonathan

    Good one, Dennis.

  • Tom Hering

    1: “Where’s the methane?’

    2: “The big question, then, is what this does to the global warming scare.”

    In the article that’s linked to, the answers to these questions are:

    “Both studies agree that human activities are the key element. And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.”

  • Tom Hering

    1: “Where’s the methane?’

    2: “The big question, then, is what this does to the global warming scare.”

    In the article that’s linked to, the answers to these questions are:

    “Both studies agree that human activities are the key element. And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    “Both studies agree that human activities are the key element. ”

    Yeah, that’s the story. And they’re sticking to it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    “Both studies agree that human activities are the key element. ”

    Yeah, that’s the story. And they’re sticking to it.

  • Tom Hering

    So, if you don’t believe them when they say their studies show that human activities are the key element, why do you believe them when they say their studies show that methane levels dropped in the ’80s and ’90s?

  • Tom Hering

    So, if you don’t believe them when they say their studies show that human activities are the key element, why do you believe them when they say their studies show that methane levels dropped in the ’80s and ’90s?

  • Sung Im

    “So, if you don’t believe them when they say their studies show that human activities are the key element, why do you believe them when they say their studies show that methane levels dropped in the ’80s and ’90s?”

    The first is an inference, the second is an observation. We can agree on the observation and disagree on what are valid inferences to make from the data.

  • Sung Im

    “So, if you don’t believe them when they say their studies show that human activities are the key element, why do you believe them when they say their studies show that methane levels dropped in the ’80s and ’90s?”

    The first is an inference, the second is an observation. We can agree on the observation and disagree on what are valid inferences to make from the data.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Apparently the important thing is that whenever scientists do their job and report that things were not as had been previously hypothesized, whenever scientists challenge prevailing ideas, whenever scientists openly discuss data and ideas…

    That this should always be construed as reason to question (anthropogenic) global warming.

    Because that’s pretty much what always happens, isn’t it?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Apparently the important thing is that whenever scientists do their job and report that things were not as had been previously hypothesized, whenever scientists challenge prevailing ideas, whenever scientists openly discuss data and ideas…

    That this should always be construed as reason to question (anthropogenic) global warming.

    Because that’s pretty much what always happens, isn’t it?

  • Tom Hering

    Human activity can’t be observed? Only inferred?

  • Tom Hering

    Human activity can’t be observed? Only inferred?

  • Jonathan

    Too bad they can’t find a way to extract the methane for a fuel source.

  • Jonathan

    Too bad they can’t find a way to extract the methane for a fuel source.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@8), it’s not a question of observing “activity”. Rather, it’s a question of determining causation. By and large, you can’t really observe that. You can only conclude to various degrees of certainty. (Of course, there are also degrees of certainty involved in what we “observe”, but that only mucks things up further).

    As you likely know, correlation is not causation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@8), it’s not a question of observing “activity”. Rather, it’s a question of determining causation. By and large, you can’t really observe that. You can only conclude to various degrees of certainty. (Of course, there are also degrees of certainty involved in what we “observe”, but that only mucks things up further).

    As you likely know, correlation is not causation.

  • Jesse

    Let’s take a different tack: if methane is emitted from coal beds or from decaying vegetation in swamps (to give two examples), what keeps the level of methane in the atmosphere in check? Why would it ever go down? The answer may be the balance between the population of methanotrophs (methane-eating bacteria that live in soil) and the level of methane in the air. When methane concentrations go up, the bacteria population grows to bring it back down.

  • Jesse

    Let’s take a different tack: if methane is emitted from coal beds or from decaying vegetation in swamps (to give two examples), what keeps the level of methane in the atmosphere in check? Why would it ever go down? The answer may be the balance between the population of methanotrophs (methane-eating bacteria that live in soil) and the level of methane in the air. When methane concentrations go up, the bacteria population grows to bring it back down.

  • http://www.radicalwatchman.blogspot.com MC62

    The over-riding assumption in this is that the Green House Gas Theory is correct. Two key landmark studies have recently been released in peer reviewed literature which bring the whole GHG theory into serious question: First, the study by Dr. Nahle who, with a team of international scientist, confirmed that a famous experiment from 1909 confirms that GHGs cannot cause global warming. Then, Dr. Roy Spencer’s cloud study using satellite thermal imaging confirms that more heat escapes from the atmosphere than the computer generated models have allowed. Once again the computer models are on the ropes and the holy grail of climate-change cultists are proving oh-so fallible. What the contradicting studies prove is that there is no consensus and that what we understand about climate is precious little. So this debate is far from over and it seems the Bible is right once again in that the earth is far more resilient than the eco-wealth-redistributionists would have us believe.

  • http://www.radicalwatchman.blogspot.com MC62

    The over-riding assumption in this is that the Green House Gas Theory is correct. Two key landmark studies have recently been released in peer reviewed literature which bring the whole GHG theory into serious question: First, the study by Dr. Nahle who, with a team of international scientist, confirmed that a famous experiment from 1909 confirms that GHGs cannot cause global warming. Then, Dr. Roy Spencer’s cloud study using satellite thermal imaging confirms that more heat escapes from the atmosphere than the computer generated models have allowed. Once again the computer models are on the ropes and the holy grail of climate-change cultists are proving oh-so fallible. What the contradicting studies prove is that there is no consensus and that what we understand about climate is precious little. So this debate is far from over and it seems the Bible is right once again in that the earth is far more resilient than the eco-wealth-redistributionists would have us believe.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    MC62 said (@12):

    It seems the Bible is right once again in that the earth is far more resilient than the eco-wealth-redistributionists would have us believe.

    And where, exactly, in the Bible is the Earth’s “resiliency” discussed? Just wondering.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    MC62 said (@12):

    It seems the Bible is right once again in that the earth is far more resilient than the eco-wealth-redistributionists would have us believe.

    And where, exactly, in the Bible is the Earth’s “resiliency” discussed? Just wondering.

  • Tom Hering

    Thanks, MC62. I was waiting for someone to chime in with a scientific opinion not driven by ideology.

  • Tom Hering

    Thanks, MC62. I was waiting for someone to chime in with a scientific opinion not driven by ideology.

  • Tom Hering

    Still waiting …

  • Tom Hering

    Still waiting …

  • Joe

    Until recently we were not allowed to dispute any part of the global warming theory – the science was settled! Get on board or you’re some sort of nutbag who hates the Earth. And the solutions that were offered would have been extremely costly and would have necessarily impacted poorer nations more than wealthy nations. Over time, more and more scientist have published papers that seem to have unsettled much of the science or at least made clear that we don’t fully understand much of what is going on.

    Thank goodness we did not enact a bunch of solutions based on the first round of settled science.

  • Joe

    Until recently we were not allowed to dispute any part of the global warming theory – the science was settled! Get on board or you’re some sort of nutbag who hates the Earth. And the solutions that were offered would have been extremely costly and would have necessarily impacted poorer nations more than wealthy nations. Over time, more and more scientist have published papers that seem to have unsettled much of the science or at least made clear that we don’t fully understand much of what is going on.

    Thank goodness we did not enact a bunch of solutions based on the first round of settled science.

  • Martin

    While not addressing resiliency specifically (God’s promise of the seasons never ceasing after the Flood comes closer to addressing this), I find Isaiah 45:18 a very interesting verse in light of the Gaia movement. No, humans are not a disease on planet Earth, they are part of God’s design for it:

    For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

  • Martin

    While not addressing resiliency specifically (God’s promise of the seasons never ceasing after the Flood comes closer to addressing this), I find Isaiah 45:18 a very interesting verse in light of the Gaia movement. No, humans are not a disease on planet Earth, they are part of God’s design for it:

    For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Martin (@17), sorry, but neither of the passages you refer to have anything to say about the impossibility of global warming and its related effects.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Martin (@17), sorry, but neither of the passages you refer to have anything to say about the impossibility of global warming and its related effects.

  • Martin

    tODD, I was referring to your question regarding resiliency.

  • Martin

    tODD, I was referring to your question regarding resiliency.

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