EARTH.COM - Scientists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have discovered that wildfires are releasing a massive amount of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. This source of methane was previously unaccounted for. It could make it challenging for states to achieve their cleaner air and climate goals.
Methane gas is known to warm the planet 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It is currently not being tracked by state air quality managers when it comes to emissions from wildfires. This omission could have significant implications for climate change mitigation efforts.
Wildfires have long been known to emit methane gas. A new study conducted by UCR researchers reveals that the amount of methane released by the top 20 fires in 2020 was more than seven times the average from wildfires in the previous 19 years. This significant increase in emissions has been linked to the growing size and intensity of fires.
“Fires are getting bigger and more intense, and correspondingly, more emissions are coming from them,” explained study co-author Professor Francesca Hopkins. She added that the fires in 2020 would have accounted for 14 percent of the state’s methane budget, had they been tracked.