The Heat Is Online

Radiation Waves Show Marked Jump in CO2, Methane Emissions

Increase in Greenhouse Gases Seen From Space

Reuters News Service, March 14, 2001

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists dispelled any lingering doubts about the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere Wednesday with new evidence from satellites orbiting the Earth.

Until now researchers have depended on ground-based measurements and theoretical models to gauge the change in greenhouse gases, believed by scientists to be the cause of global warming and major climate disruption.

New sets of data taken 27 years apart from two satellites orbiting the Earth have now provided the first observational evidence from space of a rise in greenhouse gases. The study was published in the journal Nature.

"We've seen greenhouse gas increases that we can link to a change in outgoing long-wave radiation, which is believed to force the climate response," said Dr. Helen Brindley, an atmospheric physicist at Imperial College in London.

By comparing the two sets of data, Brindley and her colleagues have shown a change in greenhouse gas emissions from Earth over 27 years which is consistent with ground-based measurements.


The comparison of the data, reported in the science journal Nature, shows real differences over 27 years in the outgoing long-wave radiation which can only be due to greenhouse gases.

The scientists compared data for a region over the Pacific Ocean and the entire globe to calculate the differences in the levels of atmospheric methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone and chlorofluorocarbons.

"Because we know where in the spectrum certain greenhouse gases are observed, when we look at the changes between the two periods we can say that change is due to changes in CO2 or methane," Brindley said in a telephone interview.

"There has been quite a significant change over the past 30 years, particularly in methane."

One of the most powerful greenhouse gases, methane, is emitted from landfill sites and disused mines.

The scientists took into account the influence of clouds and seasonal variations, so the changes they observed could only be explained by long-term changes in greenhouses gases, they said.

"It's the first time that we have seen observationally that these changes are really having an effect on the radiative forcing of the climate," said Brindley.

Radiative forcing is the measure of the climate effects of greenhouse gases.

"Since these are the models used to predict future climate and influence policy decisions, it is imperative that they can accurately simulate measurements of what is considered to be the driving mechanism behind climate change," said Professor John Harries, the first author of the Nature study.

Without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, scientists estimate the Earth's temperature and sea levels will rise, leading to increased flooding and drastic climate changes.

Industrialized nations agreed to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases under a plan agreed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 but talks in the Hague in November to finalize details broke down.