Methane and carbon dioxide, two of the most important and potent heat-trapping greenhouse gases increased last year, according to a preliminary analysis for NOAA’s annual greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world. The increase in the two gases came despite a downturn in the major economic indices.
Levels of methane in the atmosphere rose 0.6 percent in 2008, according to preliminary data from the Zeppelin station on a remote island in the Norwegian Arctic, after a similar 0.6 percent gain in 2007.
The rise in methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-five times more potent than carbon dioxide is of particular concern say climate scientists because the buildup of methane perpetuates an exponential pattern of further methane increases. As temperatures rise, the rate at which methane is unlocked and released from arctic permafrost increases.
“Only by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing energy production from renewable resources will we start to see improvements and begin to lessen the effects of climate change,” said scientist Pieter Tans of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
The 2007 jump surpassed a global rise in methane of 0.34 percent to a new record high after levels had been stable for about a decade. World data for 2008 are not yet available.