How Long Do Greenhouse Gases Stay In The Atmosphere

How Long Do Greenhouse Gases Stay In The Atmosphere

When figuring out the impact each greenhouse gas can have, it’s important to look at how long each greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere.

Some greenhouse gases may be more potent than others, but some may stay around longer than others, and therefore have a longer lasting impact.

In this guide we look at how long each GHG remains in the atmosphere for.

 

Summary – Which Greenhouse Gas Stays In The The Atmosphere The Longest

  • CO2 remains in the atmosphere longer than the other major heat-trapping gases emitted as a result of human activities. 
  • It takes about a decade for methane (CH4) emissions to leave the atmosphere (it converts into CO2) and about a century for nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • After a pulse of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, 40% will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years and 20% will reside for 1000 years, while the final 10% will take 10,000 years to turn over. 

 

Greenhouse Gases That Stay In The Atmosphere The Longest

  • Greenhouse gases are climate drivers
  • By measuring the abundance of heat-trapping gases in ice cores, the atmosphere, and other climate drivers along with models, the IPCC calculated the “radiative forcing” (RF) of each climate driver—in other words, the net increase (or decrease) in the amount of energy reaching Earth’s surface attributable to that climate driver.
  • Positive RF values represent average surface warming and negative values represent average surface cooling. In total, CO2 has the highest positive RF (see Figure 1) of all the human-influenced climate drivers compared by the IPCC.
  • Other gases have more potent heat-trapping ability molecule per molecule than CO2 (e.g. methane), but are simply far less abundant in the atmosphere.
  • CO2 remains in the atmosphere longer than the other major heat-trapping gases emitted as a result of human activities. It takes about a decade for methane (CH4) emissions to leave the atmosphere (it converts into CO2) and about a century for nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • After a pulse of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, 40% will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years and 20% will reside for 1000 years, while the final 10% will take 10,000 years to turn over. This literally means that the heat-trapping emissions we release today from our cars and power plants are setting the climate our children and grandchildren will inherit.

– ucsusa.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/science/CO2-and-global-warming-faq.html#.W855shMzbR1

1 thought on “How Long Do Greenhouse Gases Stay In The Atmosphere”

  1. So current CO2 inputs per year into the atmosphere are 100ppm (ref IPCC 2017). If 10% remains in the atmosphere for 10,000 years we will end up with 100,000 ppm CO2. CO2 has never exceeded 7,000 ppm in earths history according to paleo reconstructions. The claims of residence time for CO2 clearly are nonsense. The IPCC has residence time of CO2 as only 4 years. Einsteins Equivalence Principle means once CO2 enters the atmosphere it must be treated equally no matter its source. Nature cannot tell where a molecule of CO2 originated from, wether it is from natural sources or fossil fuel. So residence time is the same for all CO2 molecules. If we were to assume the same residence time for natural CO2 of 40% for 100yrs, 20% for 1000yrs and 10% for 10,000yrs the resultant calculated level of atmospheric CO2 would exceed reality by a huge factor. Any model must conform to reality to be valid.

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