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NOAA: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007

By Joe Romm on April 24, 2008 at 10:53 am

"NOAA: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007"


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The news from NOAA (here) is that all our dawdling on climate action this decade is having real impact on the atmosphere:

  • Concentrations of CO2 jumped 2.4 ppm in 2007, taking us to 385 ppm (preindustrial levels hovered around 280 through 1850).
  • That is an increase of 0.6% (or 19 billion tons). If we stay at that growth rate, we’ll be at 465 ppm by 2050 — and that assumes (improbably) that the various carbon sinks don’t keep saturating (see here and here).
  • Levels of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) rose last year for the first time since 1998, perhaps an early indication of thawing permafrost.


Why this recent jump in methane? NOAA says:

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

I have previously noted (here) the especially rapid warming in the same area as most of the Asian tundra.

We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” said Dlugokencky. “It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.”

Permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, contains vast stores of carbon. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic continues to warm and permafrost thaws, carbon could seep into the atmosphere in the form of methane, possibly fueling a cycle of carbon release and temperature rise.

The time to act is yesterday.

For more info, see “The Permafrost is not so Perma.”


Recycled Energy — A core climate solution

Stephen Johnson, The Environment’s Alberto Gonzales

29 Responses to NOAA: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007

  1. Nylo says:

    I will believe in NOAA’s explanations for CH4 increase this year if they are first able to explain the continuous decrease since 1998.

  2. john says:


    The earth doesn’t care whether you “believe” NOAA’s data. It is what it is, whether you believe it or not. These are what scientists call facts– observable phenomena that simply is. It was going down (slightly), it’s now going up. See? Facts.

  3. Lamont says:

    What continuous decrease since 1998? I’m staring at this graph:


    And the rate of change in CH4 decreased and went flat, but I don’t see a “continuous decline” in the curve itself.

    That curve is probably what would be expected from switching to cleaner burning fuels and all the environmental concerns of the 1980s.

  4. Ken Levenson says:

    It is terribly ominous news, particularly coupled with the recent report to the annual conference of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna as reported in Spiegel Online:

    and the new report in Nature on beetle devastation:

    The boreal forest (burning) and permafrost (melting) are starting to make it feel like the top of the world’s on fire…(maybe because it is)…

  5. Ken Levenson says:


    The decrease, or flatness, is well documented/explained:

    and now largely irrelevant…

  6. Joe says:

    Ken’s link says, “one reason for the slowdown in the growth of methane concentration may be leak-preventing repairs made to oil and gas pipelines and storage facilities, which can release methane into the atmosphere. Other reasons may include slower growth or actual decrease in methane emissions from coal mining, rice paddies, and natural gas production, they say.”

    I am also surprised they left out flaring of natural gas, which has been scaled back dramatically in the past decade, in part because the big oil companies have made climate commitments, and in part because natural gas has become so darn valuable.

    Yes, many of us expected these measures to run out of steam at some point — and expected the tundra to kick in. One year does not prove the case, but it is something to keep a very close eye on.

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    Joe: I suspect a lot of people (rightly or wrongly) assumed that flared gas is 100% burned, so it results in virtually no methane release. I don’t claim to know enough about the petroleum business to take a position on it.

    In general, I think a Siberian Express methane release is probably the scariest single “X factor” in our current situation. I don’t think we know nearly enough to assess how close we are to creating a situation that triggers it or even if it’s starting already.

  8. Peter Foley says:

    A one half of one per cent change over five years= DOOM. The question should be why didn’t the change match the Green’s predictions the previous four years, yet a another broken model that used to scare the world.
    What up with the chopped off graphs that exaggerate the slope of the graphs? One part in 179 is a slope of ~ 0.6 %. Lying with graphs isn’t any more moral than lying with statistics.
    Go to the NOAA site and use the the 250 Km smoothing range to generate some eye opening maps of surface temps to see how little GISS actually measures of the World’s surface to come up with “accurate Global averages” this emperor is butt naked.
    It time for the AGW myth makers to put some actual data(clothes) on the scarecrow of carbon based AGW.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Whereever I post this, it’ll be off-topic. But I thiink important enough to mention.

    PNNL, a research arm of DoE, and Washington State University are opening a joint bio-energy research lab in Rishland, WA. They hired a Dane to head the facility. Turns out he also owns and is CEO of a Danish biomethane production company.

    biomathane. Maybe not so off-topic here as other threads.

  10. simp says:

    I have a feeling that this is big news!!
    Reminds me of James Lovelock…

  11. Robert says:

    Just for the fun of it I pasted the 50 year CO2 history into Excel and ran an exponential extrapolation. It turns out that we will be breathing pure CO2 by the year 3000!

    Lucky the industrial revolution didn’t start around the battle of Hastings.

  12. Jeff B says:

    I don’t know whether or not I need to be concerned about atmospheric methane. True, it is a more potent greenhouse gas but the half-life in the atmosphere is 7-10 years. So I’d expect that the effects of increased CH4 would be transient. CO2 has a half-life though of 100 years and so has a more lasting and compounding impact.

    I haven’t seen any discussion on this issue on websites and would like to learn more.

  13. John McCormick says:

    Jeff, here is a methane concern you might want to look into.

    The hydroxyl radical ( OH ). It is a very important compound for us humans.

    The hydroxyl radical (OH) is the major oxidizing agent in the atmosphere. Chemical reactions with OH initialize the removal of carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

    Start with this link:


    Any changes in the atmospheric concentration of OH will affect the chemical lifetimes of many chloroflourocarbon (CFC) replacement compounds, because OH is the primary compound involved in the breakdown of the alternative hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Knowledge of OH concentration is important in analyzing the global warming potential and ozone depletion potential of HCFCs.

    John McCormick

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Jeff B — Strictly speaking, excess atmospheric CO2 does not have a half-life. The distribution has a very long tail, much longer than a decaying expotential.

    As an approximation, use 300-400 years with about 25% ‘forever’.

  15. Peter Foley says:

    David B.Benson, What you said about CO2 half-life is true, how does it decline (PPM) every spring?
    The carbon AGW clan reminds me of a second grader (10 year-old child) who has been given a tape measure, they run around a couple of days measuring objects, then abandon it for the next diversion. The selective filtering of reality is leading to ever greater cognitive disonance.
    Deadwood, South Dakota= pre carbon beetles. Old growth forests with natural brush clearing fires prevented= hugh areas of mono culture and mono generational forests for insect attacks, evolution continoues even during the alleged carbon forced AGW. Errors in tree-hugging forrest management are not effects of a 0.5 degree natural or unnatural temp. change.
    John McCormick, Sounds like a little methene flush will actually lower greenhouse effects. Geo-engingneering any one?

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Peter Foley — There is a yearly cycle in atmospheric CO2 because most of the land is in the northern hemisphere. But the oceans keep (on net) uptaking an approximately constant fraction of the excess.

    Do note the yearly variation is very small compared to the total excess of about 85 ppm.

  17. Nylo says:

    John, please learn to read. I didn’t say I don’t believe the CH4 increase. That’s data. What I don’t believe is NOAA’s explanation for the increase. They have no idea at all. So they do what they always do: blame mankind.

  18. Peter Foley says:

    David B. Benson, If your Half-life number for CO2 was even close, the negative slope of CO2 PPM could just barely go negative on the chopped Y – axis graphs used- the seasonal swings negative slope would be be ~ minus 0.2 %,– imperceptible on the low resolution graphs posted.
    The negative swing is about 2/3rds the positive. In it lies a possible geoengineering solution if needed( most likely not if negative global climate change continues).

  19. Joe says:

    “if negative global climate change continues”???
    Where is this occurring? The Arctic? Australia? India? SW U.S.?

  20. Earl Killian says:

    David is correct. Half-life is an inappropriate way to measure CO2 in the atmosphere. The IPCC uses the Bern Carbon Cycle Model. See Chapter 10 of the WG I report (Physical Basis) or http://www.climate.unibe.ch/~joos/OUTGOING/publications/hooss01cd.pdf

  21. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, its isn’t warming up any where but FSU, how does your carbon forced model explain that? Where did all the energy go the last 9 years when the air and sea didn’t warm? Time to tune up the models to match more closely reality. The map (carbon forced -AGW models) aren’t the world as it is.
    Seriously I’m interested in the freakish heat have in Siberia. Is it real or is it tweaked data? or just natural variation?
    All Arctic ice levels are above the 1951-1981 average.
    You could be the prophet who lead the pack of AGWers back to reality instead of one of thousands that went over the science cliff to irrational belief systems forever damaging their reputations for scientific integrity.
    It is never to late to return to the bosom of reason.

  22. Joe says:

    Peter — not sure how you can keep asserting things that aren’t true. The entire globe has been achieving record temperatures, as I have been reporting over and over again.

    That said, the stunning loss of the Arctic ice does mean that the top of the northern hemisphere is going to warm the most. The data trackers who best account for the Arctic (NASA GISS) not surprisingly show the greatest warming recently.


  23. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, 1998 = record, since then not records. What you report and what the data say atre Not equal. Cryosphere data refutes your statement regarding Arctic ice.

  24. Alex J says:

    It’s the longer term trends and averages that count, not one-year records and inter-annual fluctuations (including a modest winter increase in Arctic sea ice extent). 1998 was exceptional due in part to a strong el niƱo, making it a convenient comparison point for deniers. Other years since have been pretty close. There are also several temperature records (including the satellite data corrected for stratospheric bias), the oceanic temperature profiles, and other lines on observational evidence. Even most deniers/delayers no longer argue against an overall warming trend.

  25. litesong says:

    Hi Alex…Quick, but evenhanded rebuttal of deniers!

    In passing you mentioned the winter increase in Arctic sea ice extent. However, as of now, June 14, 2008, the 700,000 square kilometer lead the 2008 Arctic sea ice extent had over the 2007 Arctic sea ice extent has all melted away, & both years are tied! So the 2008 ice extent lead, that AGW deniers were crowing about & were so eager to tell the world of the vast ice ‘recovery’ of the Arctic….is 0 square kilometers now. So the race to the minimum arctic sea ice extent between 2007 & 2008 is on. Still, its hard to believe that the 2007 ice extent minimum will not remain intact, when one looks at the graph & sees the 2007 long, very steep slope as the 2007 melted so rapidly….but the 2007 ice wasn’t as thin as the 2008 ice either. So it’ll be fun to watch.

  26. Oli says:

    The half life of methane is not a ‘hazy’ subject and is most definately a real and attributable fact. The half life of atmospheric methane is just over 7 years and can be tested in any number of labratoies that use half life acceleration techniques.

  27. Chris says:

    As we turn off the internal combustion( HEAT engines) as the economy bites,the ice will stop melting. The methane flares will become less in Siberia as the world needs less oil. The ice should slowly start to reform. When the economy recovers and uses more heat,it will melt again.

    Methane will oxidize to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,so why talk about it. Methane burns. We are not living in a reducing environment.

    If we replace all the dirty,polluting carcinogenic oil compounds(benzene,toluene,methyl benzene, naphthalene and xylene incorporated into our gasoline to raise the octane rating) with solar panels we will all be living a healthier life. The unburnt hydrocarbons,from poor combustion and spills are being stored in our underground drinking water tables and we are drinking them.

    Make more solar panels! Methane will always oxidize to carbon dioxide on our planet. The end result of burning methane(the so called green natural gas) is more carbon dioxide.

    Watch the acid rain, which could attack the thousands of metres of limestone,marble and dolomite on our land. If this was ever released, we wold have a beautiful goddess,Venus on Earth. Carbonic,nitric and sulphuric acid levels should be monitored (These acids are formed when water combines with Carbon dioxide,nitrogen dioxide & nitrogen tri-oxide,sulphur dioxide and sulphur tri-oxide)

  28. arabia says:

    this helped with my report

  29. Potomac Oracle says:

    Why are methane hydrates the most dangerous -over and above their ability to produce a virulent mother of all ice ages- like never before? Because of the oxidation sequence of methane. Its first oxidation step is formaldehyde. Scientists used to think formaldehyde did not last in our atmosphere for more than 7-8 hours, but they were wrong. The seven to eight hours was dawn to dusk. Scientists working in the Arctic in 2005 found it in the snow at night, and it disappeared in the daylight, only to return at night; the more water the snow held, the more formaldehyde it held, i.e. formaldehyde hides out in water if it has not further oxidized to carbon monoxide.

    While just about every scientist was saying that in the late 90′s methane gas stopped increasing in our atmosphere, one scientist said no – it was still increasing , but it was just oxidizing faster, because of the effect of global dimming; all the dust particles from pollution were making more lightening and therefore more OH radicals, which were oxidizing the methane faster. Apparently he was right- and so right that there is so much methane, that even with the increase in OH radicals there are none left to oxidize it further, leaving it at the first step formaldehyde.

    A scientist found in 2003 that formaldehyde was increasing dramatically in the atmosphere and another scientist found that carbon monoxide, the second oxidant of methane gas was decreasing and no where was this occurrence more dramatic than in the United States, especially the Northeast United States.

    Therefore, if one summer the Pingoes in the Beaufort Sea, Lake Baikal, etc., start releasing methane in June and it builds heat to the point they all blow at once, you will have a tremendous amount of methane which cannot start its little ice age routine until it gets cold in the late fall, and it will sit there and turn to formaldehyde in massive quantities and come down to us on the wind.

    Pingoes are man made and Mackenzie did not see any Pingoes, nor did any other explorer, nor did the Canadian Department of Mines, until after oil exploration began. Pingoes are frozen mud volcanoes and the most dangerous threat to our climate and well being. The industry thought they did not have to be careful because of the frozen nature of the permafrost, but global warming has started an unstoppable chain reaction.

    I believe that is what is wrong with the bees, downer cows, cows found with massive acidosis- to the point whole body parts are burned up with acid and now the new problem with the bats in caves dying. Formaldehyde is lighter than air it sinks down to our level. It causes immune reactions in small levels, allowing funguses and parasites to take hold, then acidosis, then complete evisceration; this, I believe, is why they cannot find bee bodies, and bovine body parts, ears noses, etc.

    The Associated Press ran a story this month about the fact that methane gas began dramatically increasing again in 2008. If it really was increasing all the time and we just could not see it because it was just oxidizing faster, now that we can see it and it is dramatic, means it is coming from the permafrost, because when it breaks in the water from explosions, the nature of water keeps it contained, only the biggest explosions break the surface. Of course methane in the water is killing our ocean life. Scientists say we are 2-3 degrees away from breaking them all in the ocean and that will be the end of life in our seas, except all the weird methane life that NOAA pretends was always there.
    Perhaps, that is what the sponsorship by oil companies on the big problem with global warming is all about. They have to warm us up to the fact we do not have 50-100 years before critical conditions arrive; we have 5- 10. Perhaps that is why gas went so high, to curb our use without telling us why they need to do that; it worked, slowed usage down a lot, and high prices still held firm, but it ruined the economy, becoming the proverbial straw that broke etc, etc.