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'Detergent' Hydroxl Molecules May Affect Methane Levels In The Atmosphere ( 68

An anonymous reader quotes Caltech's announcement about the results of a study funded by NASA and the Department of Energy: During the early 2000s, environmental scientists studying methane emissions noticed something unexpected: the global concentrations of atmospheric methane -- which had increased for decades, driven by methane emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture -- inexplicably leveled off. The methane levels remained stable for a few years, then started rising again in 2007... New modeling by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University suggests that methane emissions might not have increased dramatically in 2007 after all. Instead, the most likely explanation has less to do with methane emissions and more to do with changes in the availability of the hydroxyl radical, which breaks down methane in the atmosphere... If global levels of hydroxyl decrease, global methane concentrations will increase -- even if methane emissions remain constant, the researchers say...

Tracking decadal trends in both methane and hydroxyl, Christian Frankenberg and his colleagues noted that fluctuations in hydroxyl concentrations correlated strongly with fluctuations in methane... "Think of the atmosphere like a kitchen sink with the faucet running," Frankenberg explains. "When the water level inside the sink rises, that can mean that you've opened up the faucet more. Or it can mean that the drain is blocking up. You have to look at both."

So what's changing the level of hydroxl in the atmosphere? The researchers say they have no idea.
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'Detergent' Hydroxl Molecules May Affect Methane Levels In The Atmosphere

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  • Perhaps they're being eaten by an Aloxotyl?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Armchair comment, but you know what happened shortly after 2007? The housing crisis.

    What probably really happened is that a bunch of industries curbed their production for a few years before coming back up to full power.

  • clouds (Score:5, Informative)

    by LesserWeevil ( 4776371 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @12:43PM (#54287739)
    Some recent research points to the air-water interface in clouds as an unexpected Hydroxyl source: []
  • don't care for the L
  • by laughingskeptic ( 1004414 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @02:38PM (#54288189)

    Sources of volatile hydroxils include fermentation and plant respiration. The authors did not say "they have no idea", they said they do yet have a mechanistic explanation. They clearly have some ideas and those ideas are related to the differences between the tropics and the rest of the planet and they are all calling for more studies on specifically this.

    "However, the authors do not yet have a mechanistic explanation for the last decade's global changes in hydroxyl concentrations. Future studies are needed to investigate this further, Frankenberg says. The researchers also would like to see the trends they detected verified with a more detailed study of both methane sources and sinks."

  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @03:48PM (#54288451)
    The spelling mistake in the headline may have had readers scratching their heads wondering what "hydroxl" is and trying to look it up on Wikipedia. (It isn't there.) The correct spelling is "hydroxyl" and the molecule is called the "hydroxyl radical" []. The Wikipedia article is actually very good and informative.

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