Dueling conclusions on global methane flatness puzzle

Molecule of methane.

CH4 molecule - Image via Wikipedia

From UC Irvine:

UCI studies find different reasons for global methane riddle

One cites less dependency on oil, the other new farming practices

Irvine, Calif. – Two new UC Irvine papers reach markedly different conclusions about why methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, unexpectedly leveled off near the end of the 20th century. They appear today in the journal Nature.

Both note that after decades of increases due to worldwide industry and agriculture, the tapering off of the hazardous hydrocarbon in the atmosphere – which began in the 1980s – was remarkable.

“It was an amazing mystery as to why this occurred,” said earth system science professor Eric Saltzman, a co-author of one paper, which suggests that reduced use of petroleum and increased capture and commercial use of natural gas were the driving factors.

A second UCI paper found that water efficiency and heavier commercial fertilizer use in the booming Asian farming sector provided less fertile ground for soil microbes that create methane, while at the same time increasing nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas.

Associate researcher Murat Aydin, lead author on the first paper, drilled into South Pole and Greenland glaciers to extract trapped air as much as a century old. The samples were analyzed for ethane, a chemical that has some of the same sources as methane but is easier to track.

“Levels rose from early in the century until the 1980s, when the trend reverses, with a period of decline over 20 years,” Aydin wrote. “We find this variability is primarily driven by changes in emissions from fossil fuels.”

The authors posit that replacement of oil with lower-priced natural gas could be key.

The second team measured and analyzed the chemical composition of methane in the atmosphere from the late 1980s to 2005. They found no evidence of fewer methane atoms linked to fossil fuel. Instead, the sharpest trend by far was changes in the Northern Hemisphere linked to new farm practices, mainly the use of inorganic fertilizers instead of traditional manure and drainage of fields mid-season.

“Approximately half of the decrease in methane can be explained by reduced emissions from rice agriculture in Asia over the past three decades, associated with increases in fertilizer application and reductions in water use,” said lead author Fuu Ming Kai, who wrote his UCI doctoral thesis on the work and is now with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology.

Martin Heimann, director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, was asked by Nature editors to write a commentary on both papers.

“It is indeed very remarkably rare that two differing studies about the same subject come out from the same department – I can’t think of a similar case. But I think both analyses are scientifically sound and in themselves consistent,” said Heimann, lead author on the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. “At this time I would not favor one over the other.”

Heimann has invited members of both teams to a September symposium at which, he said, “we will discuss the two studies from all angles.”

Identifying methane sources is urgent. Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change. Scientists around the world were heartened by the stabilizing levels, but there are now signs the hydrocarbon may be on the upswing again.

“We will need to reconcile the differences,” said earth system science professor James Randerson, a co-author on the second paper. “The important thing is that we must figure out – as scientists and a society – ways to reduce methane emissions.”

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103 thoughts on “Dueling conclusions on global methane flatness puzzle

  1. “hazardous chemical” “second-largest contributor to climate change”. Talk about begging the question(s). Pre-cooked conclusions that rope in $$ for “further research”.
    This stuff is really tiresome.

  2. What if there are multiple studies, and the sum of their effects is greater than 100% of the change? Would they still say that all of them are scientifically sound and consistent with each other? Maybe we just don’t know anywhere near as much as we think we do.

  3. The BBC reports it thus: “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.[...]And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again. “.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14476389

    The half-life of methane in the atmosphere is, I think, about 7 years, as it oxidises(??).

    Both explanations that were put forward look to me like BS, because they don’t explain the change from late 20thC methane decline to recent increase. In neither explanation has the underlying putative cause changed direction.

    May I suggest another explanation: In the late 20thC, atmospheric temperatures increased, thus increasing the oxidation rate and thus reducing the observed level of methane (or its rate of increase). In the last decade, atmospheric temperatures have declined, thus reducing the oxidation rate, and thus increasing the observed level of methane.

    In other words, the observed effects are due to the way that the half-life of methane changes with temperature.

    Shouldn’t be too difficult for someone to check my thinking???

  4. Would it be reasonable to conclude that the imposition of the fart tax on dairy and beef herds has had a beneficial effect on the atmosphere? Or is that a reach?

  5. “Levels rose from early in the century until the 1980s, when the trend reverses, with a period of decline over 20 years,” Aydin wrote. “We find this variability is primarily driven by changes in emissions from fossil fuels.”

    The authors posit that replacement of oil with lower-priced natural gas could be key.

    I must have missed where overall global oil consumption went down.

  6. This is very important, the models being prepared for AR5 are going to be forced with 2,740 ppb methane in 2050.

    That would take 23 ppb rise every year – and the last decade it’s only risen 2 ppb/year.

    It’ll have to rise like a rocket from here on out. The methane is going to be a quarter (likely more) of the entire GHG forcing in 2050. If they overestimate the rise 1,000% or even 50% it would be a travesty.

  7. perhaps there is less farting. or fewer cows and goats to fart. Obviously we need more studies on this issue. I too missed the reduction in the consumption of global oil decreasing. Maybe I slept in that day

  8. I saw this on the BBC, where it was stated as follows:
    ***
    “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.”
    ***
    So the researchers don’t have a clue what is causing the changes in methane concentration, but they are certain it must be caused by man. I cannot think of a clearer case of confirmation bias in climate science.

  9. So the atmospheric level of methane has been stable since the 80’s, but we still need to reduce emissions because it’s a greenhouse gas and that means it’s cousing Global Warming (or Climate Change, or Climate Disruption, Or Climate Crisis, or…)

  10. ” Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change”

    That is complete BS. Research indicates that CH4 a distant 4th or 5th on the list behind H2O, CO2, O3, and either tied with or behind N2O.

    http://ams.confex.com/ams/Annual2006/techprogram/paper_100737.htm

    Hit the Extended Abstract to view measured and modeled data tables.
    Individual atoms of CH4 may be much more potent than CO2 atoms, but in the actual atmosphere their effect is almost negligible.

  11. “What if there are multiple studies, and the sum of their effects is greater than 100% of the change?”

    Then the problem will be “worse than we thought”, because, of course, their models are reality.

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the surfeit of methane at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

  12. The flaring of natural gas associated with oil production, once prevalent, has been reduced in recent years, both in the US and other jurisdictions.

    Farming practices could also play a role.

  13. I thought that all the permafrost areas of the planet were melting into bubbling caldrons of methane. What am I missing here?

  14. Well I am glad we are moving from examining a change of a few dozen parts per million or the air to another change of a few dozen parts per billion. It restores my faith in science

    /sarc

  15. Oil and gas production in the old Soviet Union was very inefficient with poor recovery practices and very leaky gas pipelines. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the adoption of efficient western oil and gas production and distribution methods the emissions of methane and other hydrocarbons from Russia have dropped dramatically. This timing fits the observed reduction in global methane concentrations.

  16. So we can take it as gospel, that “natural gas contains NO Methane (CH4) ??

    Can that be true ??

  17. So we can take it as gospel, that “natural gas” contains NO Methane (CH4) ??

    Can that be true ??

  18. How do these people get these papers published….
    …and how in this world did anyone get the idea that peer review is truth

  19. “Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change.”…

    I imagine that the climate can ‘change’ without an increase or decrease in methane. It changes constantly! Or are they talking about ‘Global Warming’?

  20. “Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change.”

    Just keeping repeating that. Maybe someday it will be true.

  21. Consider how CO2 increases typically lagged temp increases in the paleo records… I’d sure like to see how methane fit into those curves, if we even have some reasonable proxy to provisionally make that sort of determination. In other words, just how reasonable is the assumption that any significant methane level changes seen have anything to do with man’s input?

    Seems eminently reasonable to me to assume that the atmospheric content of these sorts of trace gases have, and will continue, to vary significantly with natural shifts in temperature (especially any trace gasses with significant ties to biological systems) or other factors – perhaps even the intensity of cosmic rays, or changes in the earth’s magnetic field or any number of other factors.

    The whole earth system, including solar and other extraterrestrial inputs, is so incredibly complex that I think there is no question a myriad of interactions and subsequent changes and results occur to individual components of the overall system that we’re just not yet aware of.

  22. The tundra was holding a lot of methane (or precursor to methane) which was bound by acid rain. With the reduction in SO2 emissions the methane was released, then the release tapered off.

    There’s a paper about it. Maybe someone with access to a proper library could try to track it down.

    JF

  23. Last week Nature had paper — Montzka, S.A., E. J. Dlugokencky, and J. H. Butler (2011), Non-CO2 greenhouse gases and climate change, Nature 476: 43–50 — which noted that methane increments had increased to 6 ppb /yr (average from 2007-10). That’s a whopping 0.3% per yr. The slowdown has been a mystery for over a decade — but the science is settled.

    It is also one reason why reality does not match earlier IPCC scenarios. But who needs reality, when one has (unvalidated) models.

  24. “It was an amazing mystery as to why this occurred,”

    Hmmm, sounds like settled science to me. /sarc

  25. Mike Jonas says: “…In the late 20thC, atmospheric temperatures increased, thus increasing the oxidation rate and thus reducing the observed level of methane (or its rate of increase). In the last decade, atmospheric temperatures have declined, thus reducing the oxidation rate, and thus increasing the observed level of methane.”

    The rise in overall atmospheric temperatures is so minuscule, it’s unlikely to be a factor. I’d look at incident UV radiation levels, or maybe ionosphere temperatures.

  26. Have you noticed that methane is always quoted in parts per billion.
    If you use parts per million, the methane content of the atmosphere looks less impressive.

    Comparing CO2 is 390ppmv
    Methane is 1.7 ppmv

    Methane is rising at the not very frightening rate of 0.002 ppmv per year. Which raises the question, How accutate are these numbers for methane? How variable is it around the globe?

    If natural methane emissions are highly temperature dependant then the stalling in the growth of methane could be caused by a pause in warming. A period of cooling could bring about a fall in atmospheric methane.

  27. I began my oil and gas industry work in 1979 in Canada. Canada was ahead of the US in restrictions on flaring gas from low gas-oil ratio wells, and I can tell you the difference in the field and in the office was very, very noticeable. Now it is is uncommon to find a grouping of oil wells – and gas-wells with a minor H2S content – that are not connected to pipeline gathering systems or burnt on-site for power generation.

    Across the world in the early 1980s it was still common practice to flare (burn) huge amounts of gas associated with the (desireable) oil and natural gas liquids easily separated at the site. There are a lot of photos of huges flares from Indonesian, Saudia Arabian and Russian oilfields; nobody wanted the gas enough to build pipelines and the facilities needed to bring the gas to market in a usable state. In Australia (and China) methane was actively degassed from coal as a safety measure, but not collected as a useable product, long before the CBM business started up in North America. If there wasn’t a huge increase in methane after WWII and then a decline starting about the 1980s, I’d be surprised. The flare, like the smoking stacks of the 19th century, was a visible sign of business, profit and progress.

  28. Wait wait wait. I thought our love of a balanced diet that included meat was killing mother earth because cows produce so much methane.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/07/19/quantifying-the-moo/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/01/methane-the-other-worrisome-ghg-coming-to-a-dairy-farm-near-you/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/10/climate-craziness-of-the-week-eat-bugs-not-meat-to-save-the-planet/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/07/penn-states-greenhouse-gas-solution-cow-beano/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/07/methane-the-panic-du-jour/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/27/climate-craziness-of-the-week-2-steak-watch/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/09/07/pachauris-at-it-again-shun-meat-he-says-but-what-about-the-buffalo/

    We were told, repeatedly, that all that extra methane cause by our way of living was hurting the earth. Now I find out that methane has not increased in the atmosphere in some time! That tells me all you need to know about the global warming movement. That tells me it is all political, targeting the modern lifestyle.

  29. Isn’t The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Climate Change Faith supposed to iron these things out behind closed doors? Too much of this stuff and people are going to start thinking that the science isn’t settled.

  30. Dave Wendt says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    “…That is complete BS….” plus a link.

    Now THAT was a useful link. Odd that H2O shows three times the downward forcing in winter than CO2… and that in summer it’s about TWENTY FOUR times that of CO2.

    Where is the regulation to get this abhorrent hazardous gas under control? It has a far worse effect than CO2.

  31. We were told that methane would continue to rise if we did not change our filthy habits. We haven’t and it’s flattening, just like the rate of sea level rise. These are just some of the reasons why I pay very little attention to alarmist crap.

  32. Methane on its own is not a greenhouse see here http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2011/07/natural-gas-more-polluting-than-coal-only-according-to-the-ipcc-a-note-from-cementafriend/
    There is more methane coming out of the front of a cow by bleching than out of the back of a cow although the dung from cows and pigs etc is a source of mehane from bacterial breakdown.
    However, the major point is that methane on its own is a) not a greenhouse gas b) does not burn in the air to CO2 c) is slightly soluble in water d) can be oxidised by ozone to methanol (-OH radical) which is highly soluble in water.
    The other main point is that methane or natural gas when burn in a furance gives more so called greenhouse gases than coal and if one is concerned about “greenhouse” gases (no scientific evidence that one should be concerned) than natural gas is not the clean energy promoted by the oil and gas companies.
    These two papers and the research on natural methane emissions are a waste of money.

  33. Seems to me they don’t know what the cause or combination of causes is. They are just speculating. Probably going to tell us they need more research money. I’m not going to worry about the amounts of trace gases in the atmosphere. This planet can survive far worse situations than trace gases. These researchers would perform more beneficial services if they would try to improve farm prodution and contol of pests and bacteria.

  34. “Fast-acting greenhouse gas” … Maybe even the fastest acting greenhouse gas? Or is there a faster one? Can a card-carrying warmist please educate me about how fast each of the greenhouse gases act? You learned that in university, i didn’t. Does one send out LWIR photons with light speed and the other one with warp 2?

  35. Perhaps Dr. Salby will look at the sources of methane from satellite data. These two studies seem to be simply guessing at the sources and quantitative data.

  36. Most of the reduced methane emission is due to Beano added to bovine silage. Farm practice changes to reduce water usage, improved fertilization, increased use of natural gas for energy, all played roles, but it’s the Beano that done most of the work. :)

  37. Maybe, just maybe, the production of methane released into the atmosphere actually follows the real movement(s) in global temperatures?

  38. “Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change”

    A fast-acting gas? What in heck is that? It has a short-half-life, ~7 years, and does not act any differently from CO2 or water vapor. Ir absorbs IR and re-emits it almost instantaneously. If it happens to bump into another molecule while energized, the energy may be come heat. Of course, it’s a two-way street as other molecules can transfer heat energy to methane and reult in IR emission.

    AND how can it possibly be the 2nd-largest contributor to climate change when water vapor is responsible for 95% and CO2 about 3%? Even though methane is considered a 20X better heat-trapping gas than CO2, it is measured in ppb and not ppm. It is 1/200th as abundant as CO2, so it’s effect is (1/200)*20 = 1/10th that of CO2.

    The idea that it is 20X better at heat-trapping is also suspect as its two peaks in the IR absorption spectrum are not only narrower than the tow peaks of CO2 but they also overlap more with water vapor’s broad peaks than does CO2.

    **** Someone should check this piece of science as methane may be being given a bum wrap not because it is really a better IR absorber then CO2 (which it does not appear to be) but because it is another way the AGW bedwetters can criticize human activities and blame warming on humans.

    It has been shown, however, that CO2 and water vapor do not complement each other. rather, CO2 appears to detract from water vapor’s effectiveness in heat-trapping.The same is most likely true for methane.

    The huge methane plume released during the BP oil spill into the Gulf waters disappears in about 6-12 weeks as hordes of bacteria had a huge feast.

    Whenever a “scientist” starts out by ignoring water vapor, you pretty much know that you are reading the work of either an idiot, a non-scientist, or a political serf.

  39. George E. Smith says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    So we can take it as gospel, that “natural gas contains NO Methane (CH4) ??

    Can that be true ??

    I suspect you already know the answer, Smith, natural gas per reservoir varies in methane content, but generally methane is the largest fraction–typically 70%. There is some odd natural gas in Wyoming that I know about which is less than half methane and the remainder is CO2.

    John S. says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    …I must have missed where overall global oil consumption went down.

    As a couple of other people have noted, changes in oil and gas development have resulted in the capture of more methane and its diversion into fuels. When it is burned it ends up as CO2 and H2O rather than as methane. The IR spectrum for methane shows it has strong absorption in the region around 8 um where water vapor is moderately transparent. As someone pointed out, its half life in the atmosphere is fairly short, seven years was the value I recall being quoted.

  40. “Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change.”

    Research has shown that black is white, white is black, true is false and false is true. My broken clock has been shown to have the right time twice a day. 23 times a day it has the right time for other time zones.

    Provide a test for falsification of climate change and test against that. That would be real science. Something that to this point climate science has not done.

    Instead we have so called scientists arguing that climate science is somehow special, that in the case of climate science we need reverse falsification. As though climate science was somehow “special”, that the rules of science don’t apply when saving the planet and lining your pockets at the same time.

  41. sophocles says:
    August 10, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Maybe, just maybe, the production of methane released into the atmosphere actually follows the real movement(s) in global temperatures?

    No such luck. Methane has many sources, some of which release more methane with increasing temperature, so that the rate of production is a function of temperature.

  42. “The important thing is that we must figure out – as scientists and a society – ways to reduce methane emissions.”

    Really?? Then why did you tell us at the start of your article that “..the tapering off of the hazardous hydrocarbon in the atmosphere – which began in the 1980s – was remarkable. It was an amazing mystery as to why this occurred,” said earth system science professor Eric Saltzman, ” Your own statements indicate that the ‘hazardous emissions’ are no longer rising. Didn’t you believe your own analysis?

    Perhaps this drop in methane emissions correlates with increased use of Beano? Or reduced consumption of cabbage, sauerkraut, and kimchi?

    Inspired by Robert Burns ‘Tae a mouse’, I give you the methane powered parody

    ‘Ode Tae A Fart’

    Oh what a sleekit horrible beastie
    Lurks in your belly, efter the feastie!
    Just as ye sit doon among yer kin
    There sterts to stir an enormous wind…..
    The neeps and tatties and mashy peas
    Stert workin like a gentle breeze,
    But soon the puddin wi the sauncie face
    Will have ye blawin all ower the place!

    Nae matter whit the hell ye dae
    A’body’s gonnae hiv tae pay.
    Even if ye try tae stifle,
    It’s like a bullet oot a rifle!
    Hawd yer bum tight tae the chair
    Tae try an stop the leakin air!
    Shift yersel fae cheek tae cheek
    an Prae tae God it doesnae reek!

    But aw yer efforts go assunder,
    Oot it comes like a clap o thunder!
    Ricochets aroon the room,
    Michty Me! A sonic boom!
    God almighty it fairly reeks!
    Hope I huvnae shit my breeks!!
    Tae the bog I better scurry..
    Aw, whit the hell, it’s no ma worry!

    A’body roon aboot me chokin,
    Wan or two are nearly bokin!
    I’ll feel better for a while
    an Cannae help but raise a smile.
    “Wiz him!” I shout, with accusin glower!
    Alas too late, he’s just keeled ower…
    “Ye dirty bugger!” they shout and stare.
    A dinnae feel welcome any mair!

    Where e’ere ye go, let yer wind gang free.
    Sounds like just the job fur you ‘n me!
    Whit a fuss at Rabbie’s party,
    Ower the sake o one wee farty….

  43. Two conflicting conclusions……. peer reviewed…… both accepted as proper science. One of them thinks we’ve decreased our oil consumption compared to the 80s. The other believes the amount of manure in this world is predicated upon the farmers desire to use it as fertilizer, when obviously the amount of manure in this world is predicated upon the amount of insipidly stupid papers which are accepted through the peer reviewed process.

    How long do we have to endure this death spiral of science before someone slaps sense into the community. While we all enjoy a poke at sophistry produced by academics, this has gone on for far too long!!! Every fu[self snip]ing person that signed and helped write either paper is a complete imbecile and should have their degrees rescinded! This includes, but isn’t confined to, earth system science professor Eric Saltzman, Associate researcher Murat Aydin, lead author Fuu Ming Kai, and earth system science professor James Randerson, a co-author

    But those are just booby awards. The complete and total embarrassment to the scientific community award…the only “human rebuttal of Darwin” award evuh must go to Martin Heimann, director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. He not only endorses both works of sophistry, he fails to understand they both can’t be correct at the same time! My 3rd grade granddaughter can do better science than this. Worse, we may have paid for the science or paid for their education and likely did both. And we’re going broke……….small wonder.

  44. Darn, I forgot why I came here in the first place…There was an observation around Seneca Lake in New York of the occasional sound of heavy guns or maybe Lake Champlain, and I heard it referred to it as “The Guns of Lake Champlain”. There is some dispute whether these silent in the 1930s, after the development of natural gas wells in the area. One proposed explanation was that gas was seeping into the lake and then to the atmosphere were it could ignite and make a booming sound. Maybe. The same sort of thing was said to happen in the Bay of Mandalay where the sound is called the “Barisal Guns”. In this case the source of methane was allegedly the anaerobic decay of material in the Ganges delta. And similar things in the English channel and so on and so forth.

    It seems improbable that methane seeps, which are known to exist in many places, could ignite and make a booming sound without causing other observations, such as impacts people and structures. However, gas production probably has put many a methane seep to death.

  45. Mac the Knife says:
    August 10, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Creative! But you are a sick fellow just the same.

  46. SSam says:
    August 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm
    Dave Wendt says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    “…That is complete BS….” plus a link.

    Now THAT was a useful link. Odd that H2O shows three times the downward forcing in winter than CO2… and that in summer it’s about TWENTY FOUR times that of CO2.

    That experiment was done up in Canada. The authors were quite proud of the fact that they discovered an increase of 3.5 W/m2 in DLR due to CO2, but weren’t much interested in pointing out that it all occurred in the dead of winter which I suspect most Canadians would not find to alarming. The suppression effect of water on CO2 occurred at levels of total DLR of only 270W/m2 The Tropics, SubTropics, and even parts of the lower Temperate zone are above that level almost year round which suggests that if this effect could be verified it would show that over most of the Earth, most of the time, CO2 is an almost negligible contributor to the GHE. They did this experimental work in the late 90s. DLR has been monitored in dozens locations worldwide over the intervening years. AFAIK none of those sites has added the spectral analysis technique to their data collection. Since nearly my first reaction when I came across E&P’s work was that at last we have a means of empirically quantifying what each of the elements of the atmosphere contributes to the GHE, I have have always found that neglect extremely curious. It’s almost as if they really didn’t want to know, but that’s probably just my paranoia talking.

  47. sophocles says: “Maybe, just maybe, the production of methane released into the atmosphere actually follows the real movement(s) in global temperatures?”

    Kevin Kilty says: “No such luck. Methane has many sources, some of which release more methane with increasing temperature, so that the rate of production is a function of temperature..”

    Since production can mean either the amount produced or the rate at which it is produced, “rate of production” in this context is like “rate of velocity,” a pleonasm.

  48. The Google ad for gas and oil stocks says “NOW is the time to INVEST” which over the past three years of watching these surges in advertising for “GREEN” products tells me like all of the other times the “Established Smart money” is in a dumping onto the rubes of the public mode as the collapse of the price of the product drops out of sight in less than three weeks after the ads show up.

    Somebody has to paying for these ads to roll over the useless paper, onto the unknowing public just before the crash at an inflated peak. I don’t play Russian roulette, or invest in stocks, nor believe the total BS about the contrived studies like these two papers with no back ground study, data or real field research behind them.

  49. Abstract of the studies: “We don’t know nearly as much about this subject as we thought we did.”

  50. Kevin Kilty says:
    August 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    “Creative! But you are a sick fellow just the same.”‘

    Kevin – I did not author that bit of whimsy. It’s been around for at least a decade and usually surfaces in January, coinciding with Robert Burns’ birthday. It does appeal to the remaining bits of my long ago scottish ancestry though! MtK

  51. The data is scientific and then come the conclusions. AGW scientists just make things up. They are allowed to do that. That is why they have wildly different speculations.

  52. Looking at the data back to 1780, Methane has what appears to be a very predictable declining exponential trend. Even the IPCC in its first report had projected Methane to stabilize at around 2100 ppb. Today, it is pretty clear we will not reach 1850 ppb globally and the level is basically already at its stablization level.

    Barrow Alaska, which has both the highest CO2 measurements and CH4 measurements in the world and the greatest seasonal difference and leads the trends in the rest of the world, is showing that the recent uptick in Methane is slowing down again. Mauna Loa as well.

    Here is Methane back to the height of the last ice age. As Revkin noted today, there is no Holocene Optimum signal in Methane so the permafrost is not going to melt away and cause a Methane apocalypse.

    My bet is on the Oil and Gas industry because it fits the data best. Obviously a few other factors are involved but it is not Cows and it is not Rice Paddies.

  53. When will real scientists write papers on green subjects? Or do they realize that it’s all foolishness?

    D

  54. I’m wondering what the effects of lakes drying up after the ice age is. I know it sounds odd, but I notice a lot of lakes (ponds) in MN have filled in the last 30 years. Obviously this would not create such a discontinuity discussed, but there must be some effect with the reduced rotting of vegetation.

  55. View from the Solent wrote:

    Close, but no cigar. Farmers have been feeding garlic to their cattle

    The side effect – in addition to less methane – is better tasting steak sandwiches at Morton’s! And that’s a benefit for my waistline so I don’t need as much garlic butter, and that also reduces my methane production as well. It’s a win-win-win all around!

  56. Mac the Knife says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Kevin Kilty says:
    August 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    “Creative! But you are a sick fellow just the same.”‘

    Kevin – I did not author that bit of whimsy. It’s been around for at least a decade and usually surfaces in January, coinciding with Robert Burns’ birthday. It does appeal to the remaining bits of my long ago scottish ancestry though! MtK
    =========================================================
    Still, doesn’t mean you’re not a sick fellow! :-) ……. was a gas though.

  57. “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”

    It’s called Bean-O. Great stuff.

  58. It is hardly going to explain global differences. But methane from deep coal mines was always routinely vented to atmosphere in the UK. Starting in the 1980s increasingly effective means of utilising the methane for power / heat generation were gradually introduced and by around 2000 they were generating quite a bit of power (and money!). But the power tends to be variable because the amount of methane emitted is heavily dependant on atmospheric pressure. So it isn’t always economic to install.

    Methane is also given off from abandoned mines, unless the shafts are properly sealed, until the workings eventually flood. Here in the UK we have a LOT of abandoned coal mines.

    The technology is readily available to oxidise mine gas methane where it isn’t practical to utilise it. A few years ago, this generated income through one of the Government’s greenie subsidies. (Renewables Obligation Certificates, if I remember correctly.)

    But a few years ago it was decided that it was wrong to give any subsidies at all to the Evil coal industry (better give it to BigWind!) so, since then, any unutilised methane is just belched into the atmoshere.

    Of course, in most of Europe coal mines are disappearing like the snows of yesteryear. Whilst over in Russia, China, India they are opening up everywhere. (Certainly in China, they are also introducing methane capture and utilisation for sound safety and commercial reasons).

    All thi is probably nothing to do with fluctuating global methane levels (and there’s no evidence at all that it is a problem) but it’s funny that coal mine methane declines and rises in similar time frames?

  59. Methane clathrates? Ocean temps stabilizing? Below 1500 m in temperate regions, there might not be enough temperature change. Methane clathrates under sediment are stable below 300m, such as in the Gulf of Mexico. Temperature changes here could release methane. In polar regions, rising temperature at depths below 250 m might destabilize methane clathrates.

    The presence of methane could support the growth of sufficient methanotrophs perhaps enough to consume a significant fraction of the available methane. Or, perhaps temperatures to 500 m have stabilized in the last decade.

    It takes many thousands of years for the methane to collect. The methane is produced by methanogens in sediments consuming what may be very old material. As temperature warms, methanogens will become more active as well. The methane released from the ocean oxidizes to CO2 in the atmosphere. This CO2 coming from ancient organic matter would mimic 14C depleted CO2 produced from fossil fuel.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/r4w867922g607w2j/

    http://marine.usgs.gov/fact-sheets/gas-hydrates/title.html

  60. AFAIK Methane is 60 times more effective as a Global Warming agent than CO2 … by weight.
    So, it won’t take much of a decrease to completely swamp any CO2 effect.

  61. Dave Wendt says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm
    I thought that all the permafrost areas of the planet were melting into bubbling caldrons of methane. What am I missing here?

    Spot on David . I did some googling and back in 2007, in an article in Nature, they were saying the standard comments

    http://terranature.org/methaneSiberia.htm

    “A study published in the September 7th issue of Nature authored by Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, and Jeff Chanton of Florida State University reports that greenhouse gas is escaping into the atmosphere at a frightening rate”

    and of course

    “The vicious cycle of methane release and warming ….. taking climate change towards the tipping point …..”

    and
    Sergei Kirpotin of Tomsk State University describes permafrost melting as an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible”. He says the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt in the last three or four years.

  62. An awful lot of methane must escape into the atmosphere from natural gas seeps. Natural oil seeps also result in gas coming out of solution from the oil. Microbes are pretty good at taking advantage of free food and they can metabolise the most unlikely substrates in the most unlikely redox conditions. Perhaps a slight temperature change has allowed more microbes to metabolise it. Perhaps methane just varies naturally across the globe, blown by changing wind patterns. Its a very low concetration gas if its measured in ppb and nature has very large sources and sinks for natural stuff like this.

    I can’t help thinking this is a non-problem.

  63. George Bush’s Methane to Markets program likely had a significant role in reducing methane emissions and Obama’s scaling back of the program likely had a role in the subsequent increase in methane emissions.

    Unlike most politicians, GW did understand the science.

    Although to suggest George Bush was the only person to ever do anything significant to reduce global warming would send the Left into meltdown.

    EPA report on the Methane to Markets program which confusingly measures methane emissions in CO2 equivalents.

    http://epa.gov/globalmethane/pdf/2010-accomplish-report/usg_fullreport_2010.pdf

  64. Methane not a powerful radiative gas (avoinding the extreme misnomer of greenhouse gas). CO2 is more powerful. However due to the logaritmic relationships (more or less saturation) changes in relatively very low concentrations methane are more effective than changes in the more abundant CO2.

    There was a question about the paleo concentrations of methane gas in ice cores. Essentially the Greenland isotope ratios (allegdly paleo temperatures) are somewhat different with time than the isotopes from Antarctica. CO2 follows the isotopes from Antarctica but CH4 is corrolating with the Greenland ice cores (no distinct lead or lag). However everybody seems happy with those differences, explaining it all with temperature. Not!

  65. Is it possible to re-educate all these so called leading edge researchers in such a way that they are employable in the real world?

  66. The settled science getting ever more settled by each published peer reviewed paper. After this one, CAGW is soooooooo settled that we cannot expect it to get “settleder” for many weeks to come. CH4 was expected to be the feedback-trigger to set off the most abrupt AGW changes by many doomsaday preachers. If it is not acting the way researchers have said it must, then the team has some serious “splainin’ ” to do. IMH, H, H, O.

    I’m happy not to be a climate preacher these days. It is a very important field, but I would not want to have a history of claiming “settled science” and portraying horrific doomsday-scenarios these days as the questions get tougher and tougher. This will go down in history as a discipline that almost ruined the credibility of science. At least science as a way to dictate future political action. Sure they will claim that they never did anything but interpret data in an “objective fashion”, but the internet is full of documentation that clearly labels a lot of these people as snake oil salesmen with extreme fear as their product.

  67. With the possible death of CO2 climate doom are we seeing the rise of the new ‘Methane’ climate doom which requires so much research and political changes and and course a Mathane exchange?

  68. “Dave Wendt says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm
    I thought that all the permafrost areas of the planet were melting into bubbling caldrons of methane. What am I missing here?”

    Well when alarmists are reminded that CO2 increase by itself cannot possibly cause the massive increase in global temperatures because of the logarythmic nature of CO2 absorbtion of heat energy, noting also that there is not enough physical carbon based fuel on the planet to increase temperatures to catastrophic levels, they fall back on the “positive feedbacks” argument which CO2 increase is supposed to trigger. The methane escaping from the melting tundra is one of these feedback mechanisms. And these papers both show that mechanism currently is NOT contributing to global atmospheric methane concentrations.

    This is yet another hole below the bow of the great liner AGW. What the heck will it take to sink this floating collendar?

  69. Methane is an IR reactive gas like CO2 and H2O. Greenhouse Gas is a poor description for a gas that does not do as so described.

    Methane is also unstable in the atmosphere and breaks down, oxidises, to CO2 and water.

  70. “Research has shown that black is white, white is black, true is false and false is true. My broken clock has been shown to have the right time twice a day. 23 times a day it has the right time for other time zones.”

    A stopped clock is more accurate at times than a working clock that happens to be consistently 5 minutes slow. By climatologists logic, we should all have stopped clocks.

  71. China to the rescue AGAIN! First they start burning so much dirty coal that the sulfate aerosol particles act like a sunshade bringing global warming to a screeching halt around the year 2000 and then with all the economic growth that comes along with cheap energy they improve rice farming practices and bring the dramatic, unprecedented rise of an uber-potent greenhouse gas to a halt.

    Will wonders never cease? /sarc

  72. is that good methane or bad methane, it’s important to know, so we can boo and chheer athe the appropriate times!

  73. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with our production of science PHDs. The Polar Bear study, these two studies, and the entire IPCC process all indicate that we have too many science PHDs who are too poorly trained. Casual inspection indicates that the problem is increasing with time. They have reached a critical mass where they favorably review each others thrash.

    Perhaps we need a study of our education of science PHDs. Can we track back to the source of the Doctorates of those who produce and review silly results? Maybe there are just a few universities to blame and we can identify them.

    Or perhaps we need a super doctorate committee that has the power to suspend Doctorate Degrees when evidence of incompetence reaches a critical level.

  74. Further on my last. An article in today’s internet Wall Street Journal includes the following:

    “Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal.

    Just 22 retraction notices appeared in 2001, but 139 in 2006 and 339 last year. Through seven months of this year, there have been 210, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals world-wide.”

    More retractions could reflect better post publication monitoring. The thrust of the WSJ article is that they show that more erroneous studies are published..

  75. John Marshall, Andre and others, who have no experience with chemical reactions & combustion processes, why not look at a physical/chemcial data reference book (eg Perry’s Chemical Engineering Handbook) but I suppose ignition temperatures, rate constants, energy of formations etc are beyond your capability. It seems to be beyond the capability of the pseudo-scientist lead authors of the IPCC as well. I repeat look at the post http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2011/07/natural-gas-more-polluting-than-coal-only-according-to-the-ipcc-a-note-from-cementafriend/

  76. The decades old forecast of the world dying out because of farts is still true. The difference is that they are all in Congress,now.

  77. wayne Job says:
    August 11, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Is it possible to re-educate all these so called leading edge researchers in such a way that they are employable in the real world?
    =============
    probably not, they replaced lick it yourself stamps with glue…and I can’t think of anythoing else much they would be good for

  78. “Levels rose from early in the century until the 1980s, when the trend reverses, with a period of decline over 20 years. We find this variability is primarily driven by changes in emissions from fossil fuels.”

    I would like to see the evidence for the belief that emissions have reduced since the 1980s. I suspect that their view on this is restricted to their own backyard. What are we doing with all of that oil that we are pumping?

    That’s not to say that “suggestions” of a current increase in methane should be of no concern. After all, if we get to the point that there is enough of it to form a Stefan Boltzmann solid surface, we are going to cook!

  79. nano pope says:
    August 11, 2011 at 3:29 am
    KnR: I’ll trade you 12 cow farts for 20 sheep burps.

    And they said the carbon credit market was dead!

  80. Lower petroleum consumption?

    http://watd.wuthering-heights.co.uk/chartpages/c/c01oilconsworld.html

    Do these guys think we have already shifted significantly to electric cars? Have cows stopped farting? Are vegetarians turning to carnivores. (http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=vegetarians%20and%20farts&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA)

    “….commercial use of natural gas were the driving factors”

    Do they not know that nat gas is METHANE!!! These academics have to get out more.

  81. Bill Illis: “Here is Methane back to the height of the last ice age. As Revkin noted today, there is no Holocene Optimum signal in Methane so the permafrost is not going to melt away and cause a Methane apocalypse.”

    The rise in temperature of the soil that is supposed to create the methane apocalypse starts the trees growing much faster than the rotting of the vegetation in the ground. If the methane emerges as a result of temperature, it is far more than compensated for by increased biomass growth. It is a paradisical apocalypse.

    And, how did that biomass get into the permafrost in the first place??

    Oh yeah…

  82. Brendan says:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Ken Hall says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:20 am

    I find many of the arguments in climate science very irritating, but the permafrost alarms are near the top on that scale. I can’t tell if these people are just incredibly ignorant or are being deliberately deceptive. It seems to me that all the alarmists statements about melting permafrost try to convey the implicit assumption that permafrost refers to ground that is all permanently frozen. In reality almost every area of permafrost has what is known as an active layer, which like the waxing and waning sea ice, melts and refreezes annually. Permafrost means that at some depth below the surface, which ranges from about 3′ to more than 20′, the ground remains frozen for more than one year. When they are hyperventilating about melting permafrost what they are talking about is ground, that is on avg. at least 7′ below the surface, which used to stay below freezing that is now at 1 or 2 degrees above. If you know anything about the process of decay you’ll realize that development is hardly likely to generate a huge spike in methane production, especially when you consider, given the glacially slow rate of soil creation in permafrost areas, that soils at that depth have probably been through hundreds if not thousands of annual melt cycles already.
    Even if large areas of permafrost were to disappear, the natural process is for boreal forests to move in fairly rapidly and the resulting uptick in plant production would more than compensate for any increase in methane releases.

  83. “Associate researcher Murat Aydin, lead author on the first paper, drilled into South Pole and Greenland glaciers to extract trapped air as much as a century old”
    As discussed before at WUWT,( http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/26/co2-ice-cores-vs-plant-stomata/ ) if Murat is digging into something a century old, then its firn, not ice. It doesn’t yet have sealed bubbles and can exchange gas with the atmosphere by diffusion. So any trend found over a period as short as 20 years is likely to be spurious.

  84. “What if there are multiple studies, and the sum of their effects is greater than 100% of the change?”

    That’s okay, it’s a feedback effect.

    lol, I love they way the first study starts out by saying (paraphrased) “well, we didn’t actually study METHANE, exactly, but we kinda sorta studied something a lot like it, so we’ll just pretend like we studied methane.”

    Yeah, and the initial assumption that it’s gotta be something man made is great too. Wouldn’t want to investigate anything else because you won’t get published that way.

  85. “Scientists around the world were heartened by the stabilizing levels, but there are now signs the hydrocarbon may be on the upswing again.”
    By which they mean they were disheartened, worried, and depressed by the stabilizing levels, just as they have been by the warming having flatlined and Arctic ice failing to go into its “death spiral”. But now that there are “signs” methane “may” be on the upswing again, they have a glimmer of hope that their CAGW gravy train will continue to rumble along for a bit longer.
    These are indeed tough and worrying times for Warmist “scientists”.

  86. Maybe methane is food for some life forms. If so, it would seem an abundance of methane would increase the population of methane consumers.

  87. There was a study several years ago that attributed the drop in world methane levels to the fall of the Soviet Union and the cessation of their wasteful releases of methane in the extraction and refining of petroleum. Made sense to me then, though no one seems to recall it among the commenters here. I am not an acedemic. Perhaps others could chase that one down.

  88. George E. Smith says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    So we can take it as gospel, that “natural gas” contains NO Methane (CH4) ??

    Can that be true ??

    Except for the ~80% that is.

  89. jaymam says:
    August 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    By far, the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect is hydroxl acid. In comparison, Methane has an insignificant effect.

    http://www.mindspring.com/~boba4/Dhmo.html

    Check out the link above from cementovershoes:
    CH4 libel
    Summary: The only way to get to the “21X” figure is to BURN CH4, producing water vapour, which has that ratio. By itself, CH2 has a trivial “footprint” and “signature”. Even in the atmosphere, it mainly ends up as methanol and O2 after reacting with ozone, and the methanol washes out in rain, etc. And burned methane is evil because it produces water!
    So the entire demonization of methane is a Big Lie, repeated so often no one bothers to check on it!!

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