Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


More methane in the atmosphere

Posted: November 26, 2013

More methane in the atmosphere

A recent study co-authored by Assistant Professor Eric Kort suggests there is more methane, a climate-warming gas, in the atmosphere than previously thought.

Methane comes from underground deposits, swamps, landfills and even cows.

The study used atmospheric methane observations to reduce the uncertainty associated with government estimates for total US methane emissions. The findings show a serious discrepancy.

According to the study, the numbers for US methane emissions are about 1.5 times larger than the estimates made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In some regions (Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma) the study found more than 2.5 times the methane measured by the EPA and other groups.

The study, entitled, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers used airplanes and cell towers to take about 13,000 measurements directly from the atmosphere in 2007 and 2008. The accuracy of these measurements is crucial for developing effective national and state greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

The abstract states, “Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories.”

This research has received publicity from the New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, National Public Radio (NPR) and more.

To read the full abstract, click here.

To read the NPR article, click here.

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