Interactions with Aerosols Boost Warming Potential of Some Gases

…from NASA…

map of the world showing methane concentrations

This map shows the distribution of methane at the surface. New research shows that methane has an elevated warming effect due to its interactions with other substances in the atmosphere. Credit: NASA/Goddard

“For decades, climate scientists have worked to identify and measure key substances — notably greenhouse gases and aerosol particles — that affect Earth’s climate. And they’ve been aided by ever more sophisticated computer models that make estimating the relative impact of each type of pollutant more reliable.

“Yet the complexity of nature — and the models used to quantify it — continues to serve up surprises. The most recent? Certain gases that cause warming are so closely linked with the production of aerosols that the emissions of one type of pollutant can indirectly affect the quantity of the other. And for two key gases that cause warming, these so-called “gas-aerosol interactions” can amplify their impact.

““We’ve known for years that methane and carbon monoxide have a warming effect,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But our new findings suggest these gases have a significantly more powerful warming impact than previously thought.””