Viridian Note 00396: Jolly News for the New Year
- Key concepts:
- methane in Earth's atmosphere stabilizes
for no apparent reason
- Attention Conservation Notice:
- Errs on the side of
the life-affirming in a frank attempt to keep
people's hopes up.
The year 2003 was the world's third hottest year ever,
but hey, at least 2003 wasn't the hottest-hottest
ever. A lot of us survived 2003, even in Europe!
The Prius is MotorTrend's car of the year.
A fuel cell so small that it's built into a chip.
There's an interesting development: ardent political activists who just plain hate
petroleum and big oil's corrupting role in government.
If the US Congress can't manage to pass a new energy policy, they can always use this
perfectly sensible and decent new British energy policy, recently passed
without much fuss.
pics of a defunct Alaskan gold mine
eaten by Alaskan natural forces. Imagine
how that mining wreckage will look after another
This is the oddest and most interesting good news
of the season. Concentrations of methane, a serious greenhouse gas, have somehow levelled
off in the atmosphere. Nobody quite knows why this has happened, but, well, without any
kind of apparent major effort on humanity's part, methane has simply stopped increasing
after 200 solid years of growth.
Source: NATURE magazine, Helen Pearson
"Greenhouse gases level off
"Concerted efforts could further fall of methane. 28 November 2003
by Helen Pearson
"Levels of the greenhouse gas methane have plateaued for the first time in around 200
years, shows a new report.
"Methane is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to our planet's warming.
The gas == belched out by fossil-fuel burning, rice paddies, festering farm manure and
landfill sites == has been accumulating steadily since the Industrial Revolution.
"Now the tide may be turning, say Ed Dlugokencky of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, and his team. They found that
levels steadied between 1999 and 2002, according to measurements from 43 ground-based
stations around the world.
Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases Group
"The reason for the change is unclear. Dlugokencky believes that a major contributing
factor was the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Oil and gas production fell, and the
industry became more efficient at plugging gas leaks from pipes and wells. (((Communists
eh? After 200 years? Really? No kiddin'?)))
"Experts are keen to point out that the plateau is no cause for complacency. (((As far
as I can figure, there's just plain "no cause".))) Increasing fossil-fuel consumption in
developing nations, or renewed drilling for natural gas, might boost methane again. 'The
trajectory is still moving up, in my opinion,' says atmospheric chemist David Blake of the
University of California, Irvine.
"Indeed, says Blake, the finding highlights how small steps to cut methane emissions
could slow global warming. Leaking gas pipelines could be capped, for example, and
incentives introduced to encourage landfill owners and farmers use methane to run power
(((Yeah, yeah but... well, this kind of begs the question of what's actually going on up
there. Is there less methane emitted somehow, or maybe some kind of unknown mechanism
kicking in to destroy it more quickly in the atmosphere? Nobody's got the foggiest.)))
"Earlier studies hinted at a slowing in the long-term rise in methane == but
Dlugokencky's conclusion is based on particularly frequent and accurate measurements. 'He
can connect the dots in a more accurate way than we can,' explains Blake.
"Accumulating methane is thought to prevent heat escaping from Earth into space, like
the thickening blanket of carbon dioxide. It probably accounts for roughly 20% of the
warming effects of greenhouse gases, compared with the 40-50% attributed to carbon
(((So this is kind of big deal, really. Too bad
nobody understands it.)))
"Human activities pump out more than two-thirds of the methane in the atmosphere, the
rest comes mainly from natural wetlands. Methane survives an average of nine years in the
sky before it is broken down in reactions with short-lived compounds called hydroxyl
"A quickening of this destruction might partly explain the methane plateau. Changes
in climate can also alter the amount oozed by wetlands. 'A collection of things has
resulted in this trend,' says Elaine Matthews, who studies methane emissions at the
Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University in New York. (((A "collection
of things"? Wow, that sounds like a pretty safe assessment. Maybe one could use that to
get out of a speeding ticket == "Er, a 'collection of things' caused me to exceed the
speed limit, officer!")))
"Dlugochenky, E. J. et al. Atmospheric methane levels off: temporary pause or a new
steady state? Geophysical Research Letters, 30, doi:10.1029/2003GL018126, (2003)."
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
EVEN A PLANET GETS
A DUMB LUCKY BREAK
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O