'Detergent' Molecules can Increase Methane Level in the Atmosphere, Recent Study Finds

By Menahem, Zen | Apr 24, 2017 12:39 PM EDT

A number of molecules that behave like detergent to the greenhouse gasses can affect the methane level in the atmosphere, according to recent findings from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The new study showed the diminishing of the molecules in the atmosphere is one of the sources of methane emissions increase, besides the agriculture practice and fossil fuel

The recent study, co-funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, showed that the increase in methane levels in the atmosphere are not only caused by the emission. The methane emission is also caused by the decline of "detergent" molecules in the atmosphere. According to a research scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the associate professor at Caltech, Christian Frankenberg, a detergent molecules called hydroxyl radical (OH) in the atmosphere takes important part to break down methane in the atmosphere,

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The increase of hydroxyl in the will result to reduce the methane levels in the atmosphere. Therefore, the methane emission will increase when hydroxyl level is declining. According to professor Frankenberg's research, there is a significant drop of hydroxyl in the atmosphere since 2007, which made the methane level in the atmosphere increase.

Professor Frankenberg collaborated with his colleague from Caltech and Harvard in the research. They are the professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering at Caltech Paul Wennberg and two Harvard professors Alexander Turner and Daniel Jacob. Their findings have already been published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 17 as reported by Caltech.

Methane is the second most common greenhouse gasses after carbon dioxide. The gas is odorless and colorless, and its source of emission varied from the decomposed biological materials from the agricultural practice to the leaked in the natural gas pipeline. Watch the explanation of methane as the greenhouse gas from Professor of Geology and Geochemistry at Caltech, John Eiler below:

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