Methane and Water

Gases trapping solar heat in the atmosphere are called green house gases. Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities (the first one being carbon dioxide). In 2014, methane accounted for about 11 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Although methane is much more potent green house gas than carbon dioxide (25 times greater impact on climate change than CO2 over 100 years), its longevity in the atmosphere is only about 12 years.

Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, lakes and the oceans, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems, landfills and the raising of livestock.

Methane sources
Global methane sources - natural and anthropogenic, adopted from NASA


Water body methane emissions play an important role in the global methane emission budget, but there are large uncertainities in methane fluxes estimates from natural and anthropogenic systems. Researchers in Ohio work on evaluating methane fluxes from both of these sources.

  • Prof. Bohrer projects funded by NSF and Ohio WRC investigate methane fluxes from natural and anthropogenic sources in shale gas development areas.
  • Prof. Buffam and Hamilton project funded by Ohio WRC 104(b) program evaluate how are Ohio reservoirs methane emissions influenced by nutrient enrichement. 

Fluxes of methane
Global Carbon Project 2013; Figure based on Kirschke et al. 2013, Nature Geoscience

How can you help in reducing methane emissions?

  • Methane emissions get produced wherever there are fossil fuels. Methane gets released during fossil fuels (natural gas, coal or petroleum) extraction, handling, transportation or refinement and combustion.

By using fossil fuels, you contribute to the most important anthropogenic source of methane emissions. Saving electricity and driving fuel efficient car helps in reducing methane emissions.

  • The meat that we eat everyday has a huge impact on total methane emissions. Livestock farming creates 90 million tonnes of methane per year.

Eating less meat (especially beef) will indirectly decrease the amount of methane emitted to atmosphere.

  • Methane gets generated by the decomposition of solid waste in landfills, especially organic waste such as food scarps. Landfills and waste produces 55 million tonnes of methane per year

Reducing the amount of food waste that ends up in the landfills will lead to lower methane emissions.