Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Record Increase in Methane Levels in the Atmosphere: US NOAA

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency scientists say, the increase in methane levels in the atmosphere was 17 parts per billion in 2021
April 9, 2022

For the second year in a row, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) scientists have seen a record annual rise in atmospheric-level methane, a powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is the second-largest contributor to man-made global warming after carbon dioxide (CO2).

CO2 levels have also continued to rise sharply, NOAA points out in its annual report. “Our data shows that global emissions continue to move rapidly in the wrong direction,” the NOAA director said.

Methane is the second most contributing gas to global warming after CO2. Its lifetime in the atmosphere is shorter (about ten years) than that of CO2, but its heating power is much higher. Scientists estimate that 30 percent of methane emissions are linked to the fossil fuel sector.

According to NOAA, the increase in methane levels in the atmosphere in 2021 was 17 ppb (parts per billion), the largest annual increase recorded since measurements began in 1983. In 2020, the increase was 15 ppb. From NOAA’s observations, scientists estimate global methane emissions in 2021 are 15 percent higher than in the 1984-2006 period.


Carbon dioxide emissions also continued to increase by more than 2 ppb from the previous year, for the tenth consecutive year. “Reducing methane emissions is an important tool that we can use now to reduce the consequences of climate change in the short term,” said the director of NOAA.

At the end of February, the International Energy Agency (IEA) had also pleaded to tackle the problem. Its annual report noted that methane emissions linked to the oil, gas and coal sectors had gone up in 2021, by 5 percent, without however returning to their 2019 peak.