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Stabilization of Atmospheric Methane

June 3, 2007
Mysterious Stabilization of Atmospheric Methane May Buy Time in Race to Stop Global Warming
clipped from www.sciam.com

Since 1978 chemists at the University of California, Irvine, have been collecting air in 40 locations from northern Alaska to southern New Zealand. Using gas chromatography, the scientists have measured the levels of methane–CH4–in the lowest layer of our atmosphere
During the two decades of measurements, methane underwent double-digit growth as a constituent of our atmosphere, rising from 1,520 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) in 1978 to 1,767 ppbv in 1998. But the most recent measurements have revealed that methane levels are barely rising anymore–and it is unclear why.

Chemist Isobel Simpson led the research examining samples from 1998 through 2005 and found that methane levels had practically stopped rising, reaching 1,772 ppbv in 2005.

“The scientific community agrees that the pause is source-driven rather than sink-driven, that is, caused by decreasing emissions of methane,

natural gas flares
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