Methane levels surged in 2020 despite lockdowns

Thu, 23 Jun 2022 05:45:00 GMT
ESA Top News

Levels of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, continued their...

Levels of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A team of scientists, from the University of Leeds, have used data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite to pinpoint locations with large surges of methane emissions.

The combination of methane's high global warming potential and relatively short lifetime in our atmosphere of approximately nine years, means if we reduce our methane emissions, we can partially mitigate the human impact of climate change on a relatively short timescale - while global emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced.

In situ methane measurements from 2020 showed the largest annual increase of methane concentrations since the 1980s, with this record surpassed in 2021.

The year of 2020 was unique owing to the global pandemic, yet methane concentrations continued to rise despite a reduction in economic activity.

This is why it is important to monitor changes in atmospheric methane using satellites such as Copernicus Sentinel-5P. The satellite maps a wide range of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and of course, methane.

The data obtained from Sentinel-5P indicates that 2020 was likely to have been a period of large methane fluxes in these regions.

In Canada, high concentrations of methane in 2020 are found in the east, where more wetlands are situated.

The regions of strong methane growth measured in these satellite observations indicate that wetlands may have been significant contributors to the large rise in methane during 2020, however work using TOMCAT is still ongoing to further explore these findings.

Emily Dowd, PhD student from the University of Leeds, said, "Copernicus Sentinel-5P observations have shown that global wetlands continue to be a large contributor to the atmospheric methane budget, and it is important that further work is carried out to fully understand how they will respond to changes in our climate."