Atmospheric Methane Concentrations since 1984

Data source: Data from NOAA, measured from a global network of air sampling sites

Methane (CH4) is a powerful greenhouse gas, and is the second-largest contributor to climate warming after carbon dioxide (CO2). A molecule of methane traps more heat than a molecule of CO2, but methane has a relatively short lifespan of 7 to 12 years in the atmosphere, while CO2 can persist for hundreds of years or more.

Methane comes from both natural sources and human activities. An estimated 60% of today’s methane emissions are the result of human activities. The largest sources of methane are agriculture, fossil fuels, and decomposition of landfill waste. Natural processes account for 40% of methane emissions, with wetlands being the largest natural source. (Learn more about the Global Methane Budget.)

The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled over the past 200 years. Scientists estimate that this increase is responsible for 20 to 30% of climate warming since the Industrial Revolution (which began in 1750).