Methane-Inflamed Climate Change Melting Time: ‘Warming Feeding The Warming?’

February 10, 2022

Another warm day here in California’s Central Valley, any distinction between just ‘warm‘ and ‘hot‘ swiftly fading from our daily weather. Summer in these parts is grossly livable — we experience way-too-few weeks of the somewhat ‘cool‘ days of spring, then seemingly way-quickly months of furnace-like brightness, accelerating from April to May leading to the super ‘heat’ months.

Instead of more stories of T-Rump’s illegal and creepy relationship with official documents — he tears them up, what he can’t eat, he attempts to flush down the toilet, or he steals them in whole bundles, even sensitive shit — this a post on the backburner issue of climate change. Although it’s the foremost, real danger facing the entire human existence, a massive amount of other shit with a brighter shine right now prevails in the eye of humanity.

And this particular subject matter this Thursday early-evening is methane, a horrible gas worse than CO2, and how it’s being cranked-up by being cranked-up (LiveScience today)): ‘Methane is the second-most-common greenhouse gas emitted into Earth’s atmosphere behind carbon dioxide, and more damaging for the climate than carbon dioxide in the short-term. A ton of methane released into the atmosphere traps about 80 times more heat than a ton of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period, according to the MIT Climate Portal.

Methane could change the calendar:

Details at Nature on Tuesday:

Methane concentrations in the atmosphere raced past 1,900 parts per billion last year, nearly triple preindustrial levels, according to data released in January by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists says the grim milestone underscores the importance of a pledge made at last year’s COP26 climate summit to curb emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times as potent as CO2.

The growth of methane emissions slowed around the turn of the millennium, but began a rapid and mysterious uptick around 2007.
The spike has caused many researchers to worry that global warming is creating a feedback mechanism that will cause ever more methane to be released, making it even harder to rein in rising temperatures.

“Methane levels are growing dangerously fast,” says Euan Nisbet, an Earth scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, in Egham, UK.
The emissions, which seem to have accelerated in the past few years, are a major threat to the world’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5–2 °C over pre-industrial temperatures, he says.

For more than a decade, researchers have deployed aircraft, taken satellite measurements and run models in an effort to understand the drivers of the increase. Potential explanations range from the expanding exploitation of oil and natural gas and rising emissions from landfill to growing livestock herds and increasing activity by microbes in wetlands3.

“The causes of the methane trends have indeed proved rather enigmatic,” says Alex Turner, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
And despite a flurry of research, Turner says he is yet to see any conclusive answers emerge.

One thought is that it’s not just the extraction of fossil fuels that are creating methane increase:

“It’s a powerful signal,” says Xin Lan, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and it suggests that human activities alone are not responsible for the increase.
Lan’s team has used the atmospheric 13C data to estimate that microbes are responsible for around 85-percent of the growth in emissions since 2007, with fossil-fuel extraction accounting for the remainder5.

The next — and most challenging — step is to try to pin down the relative contributions of microbes from various systems, such as natural wetlands or human-raised livestock and landfills.
This may help determine whether warming itself is contributing to the increase, potentially via mechanisms such as increasing the productivity of tropical wetlands. To provide answers, Lan and her team are running atmospheric models to trace methane back to its source.

“Is warming feeding the warming? It’s an incredibly important question,” says Nisbet.
“As yet, no answer, but it very much looks that way.”

And what creates this ‘warming feeding the warming‘ process, or the feedback loop in environmental science, is growth or building — from The New York Times this morning:

The new $1 trillion infrastructure law invests billions in climate-friendly programs like electric car chargers and public transit. But it also gives states $273 billion for highways over five years, with few strings attached.
One analysis from the Georgetown Climate Center found that this money could significantly increase emissions if states keep adding highway lanes.

Already, there are signs that even states with ambitious climate goals like Washington, Illinois and Nevada hope to use federal funds to expand roadways, such as adding lanes to a congested section of the Eisenhower Freeway near Chicago.
In 2019, states spent one-third of their highway dollars on new road capacity, roughly $19.3 billion, with the rest spent on repairs.

“This is a major blind spot for politicians who say they care about climate change,” said Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
“Everyone gets that oil pipelines are carbon infrastructure. But new highways are carbon infrastructure, too. Both lock in place 40 to 50 years of emissions.”

We might have gone too far to pull back.
So to entice the worry, a little graphic display of methane:

Yet here we are, once again…

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion,’ found here).

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