In this illustration of methane permeating the atmosphere during 2017 and 2018, darker red indicates higher methane levels. Jackson et al. About 60% of global methane is emitted by human activity, with … Jackson et al/Environmental Research Letters 2020. 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Gassing up. Emissions rose most sharply in Africa and the Middle East, and South Asia and Oceania. “If anything, it’s possibly speeding up.” By the end of 2019, the methane concentration in the atmosphere reached about 1,875 parts per billion — up from about 1,857 parts per billion in 2017, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But curbing emissions of that potent greenhouse gas requires knowing where methane is being released, and why. Source: US Emissions Inventory 2003: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2001 The principal human-related sources of methane are described below. Emissions from natural sources like wetlands, on the other hand, held relatively steady. Questions or comments on this article? Methane is emitted from several different sources. Obviously, human activities play a major role in increasing methane emissions from most of these sources. Agricultural sources, such as cattle ranches and paddy fields, were responsible for a 10-million-ton rise in emissions from South Asia and Oceania and a surge almost as big in Africa, the authors estimate. A version of this article appears in the August 15, 2020 issue of Science News. This story was updated July 22 2020, to correct Tonya DelSontro's affiliation. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with roughly 30 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Source: Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 (459 pp., 14.4MB, About PDF) The principal human-related sources of methane are described below. Scott K. Johnson - Feb 20, 2020 6:14 pm UTC Expanding agriculture dominated methane release in places like Africa, South Asia and Oceania, while increasing fossil fuel use heightened emissions in China and the United States, researchers report online July 14 in Environmental Research Letters. Science News was founded in 1921 as an independent, nonprofit source of accurate information on the latest news of science, medicine and technology. Human activities responsible for more methane emissions than thought Emissions pinned on natural sources are probably our fault instead. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by e-mail. The team compared the 2017 observations with average annual emissions from 2000 to 2006. Environmental Research Letters. Source: R.B. Subscribers, enter your e-mail address to access the Science News archives. Biological methane can be released naturally from sources such as wetlands or via anthropogenic sources such as landfills, rice fields, and livestock. Some are human-related (anthropogenic) and others come from natural sources. In 2017, human activities pumped about 40 million metric tons more methane into the atmosphere than in the early 2000s. Today, our mission remains the same: to empower people to evaluate the news and the world around them. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing. E-mail us at The new methane budget may track emissions only through 2017, but “the atmosphere does not suggest that anything has slowed down for methane emissions in the last two years,” says study coauthor Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University. Some natural sources that produce methane are gas hydrates, freshwater bodies, non-wetland soils, oceans, wetlands, termites, permafrost, and other sources like wildfires. All rights reserved. Increasing anthropogenic methane emissions arise equally from agricultural and fossil fuel sources. Agriculture and fossil fuel use were the major drivers behind increasing human emissions. The new findings could mean that the Arctic has not bled much methane into the atmosphere yet — or that scientists have not collected enough data from this remote area to accurately gauge its methane emission trends, DelSontro says (SN: 12/19/16). In 2017, human activities pumped about 364 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, compared with 324 million tons per year, on average, in the early 2000s.