The Michigan Engineer News Center

Asst. Prof. Eric Kort discusses rising methane levels in new Wired article

“Is atmospheric methane increasing as a consequence of climate change, not of our direct emissions? Are some thresholds being passed? It is a wicked problem, but it’s not unsolvable.”| Short Read
EnlargePortrait of Eric Kort
IMAGE:  Eric Kort is a Assistant Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

The amount of methane in the atmosphere has been increasing since 2007. Atmospheric methane levels have been increasing to a much greater degree than climate scientists anticipated, and experts don’t know why.

“As the years plod on and the methane piles up, solving this mystery has taken on increasing urgency. Over a 20-year time frame, methane traps 86 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It is responsible for about a quarter of total atmospheric warming to date. And while the steady increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are deeply worrying, they are at least conforming to scientists’ expectations. Methane is not. Methane—arguably humanity’s earliest signature on the climate—is the wild card…”

In a recent Wired article, Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up—And No One Knows Why, Climate & Space Asst. Prof. Eric Kort discusses the challenges in understanding the reasons for the continuing rise in atmospheric methane.

“’We need to have process representation to understand these mechanisms,’ says Eric Kort, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan, ‘so we can say, for example, with certain changes to temperature and the hydrological cycle, we’d expect methane emissions to increase by X amount.’ Without that understanding, Kort suggests, we’re unable to answer some important questions about what looms ahead…”

Read the full article: https://www.wired.com/story/atmospheric-methane-levels-are-going-up-and-no-one-knows-why/

Portrait of Eric Kort
Elizabeth Agee in the Amazon rainforest.

Hands-on in the Amazon

As the climate changes, a grad student and mom decodes the math that drives the rainforest. | Medium Read