Over 2 million gallons of beer. That’s how much was consumed at 2018 Oktoberfest, a huge beer festival held every year in Munich, Germany. This is among the largest festivals in the world with millions of people showing up to drink, eat, and be merry for 16 days. Oktoberfest produces something else: methane. Lots of it. Scientists recently found that the 2018 Oktoberfest emitted ten times more methane than Boston does over the same amount of time ­­(per square feet). This is according to a recent finding published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. It’s quite a feat to emit more methane than Boston, a city notorious for leaky gas pipelines. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that’s 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and this is the first time that researchers have found that a festival emits a significant amount of it.

The Munich scientists initially had no plan to snoop around Oktoberfest for methane. In 2017, they were just conducting a general survey of methane emissions in their city using a portable methane analyzer. But then they discovered methane plumes that seemed to come from the beer festival. The next year, they decided to take a closer look. Strapping on the analyzer like a backpack, they trekked around the perimeter of the festival both during it and weeks after everyone left. They found that methane levels were spiking during the festivities and remained somewhat high even weeks later when everything was still being packed up. Their device also measured ethane, which can help distinguish between methane that comes from cooking with natural gas or from human breath… and flatulence. While some likely came straight from humans, they found much of the methane was probably from all the cooking and natural gas usage at the festival. On an uplifting note, this does mean that Oktoberfest could potentially lower its carbon footprint by modifying how the natural gas is used there.

The scientists’ hunt for methane at the festival is part of a global effort to pin down the different sources of methane around the world. Methane has been rising steadily for the past decade. To know how to reduce man-made emissions of the gas, we need to better understand all the ways human are producing it. While the festival only lasts 16 days, the amount of methane it emits is high enough that it should be included in Munich’s methane inventory, according to the authors of the study. More importantly, though, this is likely not the only festival to have high methane emissions. It’s just the only one scientists have found– so far.

Managing Correspondent: Jordan Wilkerson

Original Scientific Article: Methane emissions from the Munich Oktoberfest , Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Image Credit: flickr

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