Last week, at the annual Living Planet Symposium, held in Prague, a team of researchers from the European Space Agency, revealed some alarming findings. Despite all efforts, clean energy initiatives, bans and governmental programs, the concentrations of these two harmful greenhouse gases- carbon dioxide and methane, continue to rise at steady rates.
The team analyzed series of satellite observations, with the aim to estimate changes in carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in the atmosphere that have occurred over the past decade. Unfortunately, the results were far from positive.
Detailed analysis revealed that since 2007, methane in the atmosphere has been increasing at a rate of 0.3 percent per year, while carbon dioxide has risen at a rate of 0.5 percent per year. Another finding is that only 25 percent of all emissions are being taken up by plants.
The scientists were also able to identify seasonal and regional patterns. For example, they noted that the concentrations of methane over China and India for the months of August and September are higher, than for the rest of the year. This corresponds with the well-established knowledge that rice paddies and wetlands emit more methane when temperatures and humidity are higher.
At this stage, no one can fully understand the causes of this continuous increase. However, localizing and pinpointing the exact time of emissions release could help identifying the source. The most likely causes are now thought to be fossil fuels and emissions from agriculture.
Data for the study were acquired by ESA’s Envisat prove and the Japanese GoSat mission. But the team is hoping that ESA’s upcoming satellite mission – Sentinel-5P, will be able to provide more concrete answers, as tt will scan the entire atmosphere once a day.
According to Michael Buchwitz, project leader of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, these high resolution, high density atmospheric observations have the potential to provide great amount of information to scientists. They then should be able to quantify harmful gases more precisely and be able to locate emission hot spots.
Image (c) ESA