Just over a decade ago, scientists found that methane — a potent greenhouse gas — had begun to rapidly increase in our atmosphere. The amounts of gas leaking into the sky has risen each year since, and there are two obvious candidates for this surge: Either the release of methane from the oil and gas industry, or naturally released methane from the world’s tropical swamps and marshes.
But when researchers did the math, things didn’t add up.
The amount of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere has been increasing by around 25 teragrams each year since 2006 — which, NASA notes, is about the weight of a whopping 425,000 elephants (seriously). Yet, when scientists calculated the likely estimates of both methane from the gas industry or marshes, their numbers were way overblown, vastly exceeding the 25 teragrams being added each year. So for ten years, there’s been a bonafide methane mystery.