Feeds

Humanity fingered in pre-industrial pollution racket

Slash and burn

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Humanity has been affecting the climate for longer than previously imagined, according to scientists studying the history of the planet's atmosphere.

Researchers at New Zealand's National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) examined tiny air bubbles trapped in ice cores drilled in East Antarctica.

They found that levels of atmospheric methane around 2,000 years ago were much higher than expected. The levels start to drop off after around 1,000AD, however, remaining low until the beginning of the industrial age, when they began to rise rapidly again, the researchers found.

Forest and grassland fires are a significant source of atmospheric methane. The presence of these larger quantities of methane so long ago suggests that there must have been more fires than would have occurred without human intervention.

The results tally well with both climate change, and human land use, according to the paper’s lead author, Dr Dominic Ferretti.

The analysis suggests that between 0 and 1500 AD, the indigenous population of the Americas regularly burned grassland and woodland areas, perhaps for agriculture and hunting. The arrival of Europeans caused a population crash, and with the declining numbers, the burning and methane production was also reduced.

In addition, the researchers say dry periods, like those triggered by El Niño events, correspond to higher levels of methane. They conclude that as global temperatures rise, forest fires will become more common, releasing more methane into the atmosphere.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with an insulating effect 20 times as strong as that of carbon dioxide. The main difference is that it is not very stable, and only persists in the atmosphere for around 20 years. CO2, on the other hand, will happily stick around for a couple of centuries. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.