TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A recent NOAA analysis concludes that the year-to-year increase in atmospheric methane set a new record in 2021.

The increase was 17 parts per billion in 2021 – the largest annual increase since measurements began in 1983. For comparison, the increase during 2020 was 15.3 parts per billion.

Atmospheric methane levels have increased by 162% since pre-industrial times before humans started burning fossil fuels for energy.

Livestock accounts for one-third of methane emissions and fossil fuels accounts for 25%. Although there is less of it in the atmosphere, methane is 80 times more potent a heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

This past summer, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies (CIRES) – a NOAA/ University of Colorado Boulder found that much of the recent alarming rate of increase in atmospheric methane can be traced to natural sources like wetlands and melting permafrost, and not emissions from fossil fuels.

If true, this raises the alarming possibility that our warming Earth is causing feedbacks to accelerate, in which thawing permafrost and warming wetlands release more heat trapping greenhouse gases (like methane) and those excess gases then contribute to further warming the planet.