Scientists investigating how human-induced increases in atmospheric methane also increase the amount of solar energy absorbed by that gas in our climate system have discovered that this absorption is 10 times stronger over desert regions such as the Sahara Desert and Arabian Peninsula than elsewhere on Earth, and nearly three times more powerful in the presence of clouds.

A research team from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) came to this conclusion after evaluating observations of Jupiter and Titan (a moon of Saturn), where methane concentrations are more than a thousand times those on Earth, to quantify methane’s shortwave radiative effects here on Earth. Read the complete article here.


This simulation, showing the monthly-mean total solar absorption by methane from 2006 to 2010, indicates large regional variability in the gas’ power to absorb incoming energy from the sun. Note the activity over the Sahara Desert, Arabian Peninsula, and portions of Australia – all places where bright, exposed surfaces reflect light upwards to make methane’s absorptive properties up to 10 times stronger than elsewhere on Earth. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)