AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on renewed growth of atmospheric methane

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on September 4, 2013

This is a list of papers on renewed growth of atmospheric methane after being stable for almost a decade before 2006. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

Renewed methane increase for five years (2007–2011) observed by solar FTIR spectrometry – Sussmann et al. (2012) “Trends of column-averaged methane for the time period (1996, Sep 2011) are derived from the mid-infrared (mid-IR) solar FTIR time series at the Zugspitze (47.42° N, 10.98° E, 2964 m a.s.l.) and Garmisch (47.48° N, 11.06° E, 743 m a.s.l.). Trend analysis comprises a fit to the de-seasonalized time series along with bootstrap resampling for quantifying trend uncertainties. We find a positive trend during [1996, 1998] of 9.0 [3.2, 14.7] ppb yr−1 for Zugspitze (95% confidence interval), an insignificant growth during [1999, mid 2006] of 0.8 [−0.1, 1.7] ppb yr−1 (Zugspitze), and a significant renewed increase during [mid 2006, Sep 2011] of 5.1 [4.2, 6.0] ppb yr−1 for Garmisch, which is in agreement with 4.8 [3.8, 5.9] ppb yr−1 for Zugspitze. The agreement of methane trends at the two closely neighboring FTIR sites Zugspitze and Garmisch within the uncertainties indicates a good station-to-station consistency as a basis for future trend analyses by the ground-based mid-IR FTIR network on the global scale. Furthermore, the Zugspitze FTIR trend for the time interval [Jul 2006, Jun 2009] is found to agree with the trend derived from SCIAMACHY (WFM-DOAS v2.0.2) data within the 95% confidence intervals. In case a 1000-km pixel selection radius around the Zugspitze is used, the confidence interval is narrower for the FTIR trend (6.9 [4.2, 9.5]  ppb yr−1) compared to SCIAMACHY (7.1 [5.1, 8.6] ppb yr−1). If, however, a loosened pixel selection is used (≈1000-km half-width latitudinal band), the SCIAMACHY trend significance interval is narrower (6.8 [5.1, 8.6] ppb yr−1) compared to Zugspitze FTIR (5.7 [3.0, 8.3] ppb yr−1). While earlier studies using surface network data revealed changes of 8.0 ± 0.6 ppb in 2007, 6.4 ± 0.6 ppb in 2008, and 4.7 ± 0.6 ppb in 2009 (Dlugokencky et al., 2011), our updated result proves that the renewed methane increase meanwhile has been persisting for >5 years [mid 2006, Sep 2011].  This is either the longest and largest positive trend anomaly since the beginning of systematic observations more than 25 years ago or the onset of a new period of strongly increasing CH4 levels in the atmosphere. Several scenarios have been developed to explain the persistent increase observed, mainly invoking an increase in emissions from natural wetlands, an increase in fossil fuel-related emissions or a decrease in OH concentrations. However, more work is needed to fully attribute this increase to a particular source or sink.” Sussmann, R., Forster, F., Rettinger, M., and Bousquet, P.: Renewed methane increase for five years (2007–2011) observed by solar FTIR spectrometry, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 4885-4891, doi:10.5194/acp-12-4885-2012, 2012. [Full text]

Global column-averaged methane mixing ratios from 2003 to 2009 as derived from SCIAMACHY: Trends and variability – Frankenberg et al. (2011) “After a decade of stable or slightly decreasing global methane concentrations, ground-based in situ data show that CH4 began increasing again in 2007 and that this increase continued through 2009. So far, space-based retrievals sensitive to the lower troposphere in the time period under consideration have not been available. Here we report a long-term data set of column-averaged methane mixing ratios retrieved from spectra of the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography (SCIAMACHY) instrument onboard Envisat. The retrieval quality after 2005 was severely affected by degrading detector pixels within the methane 2ν3 absorption band. We identified the most crucial problems in SCIAMACHY detector degradation and overcame the problem by applying a strict pixel mask as well as a new dark current characterization. Even though retrieval precision after the end of 2005 is invariably degraded, consistent methane retrievals from 2003 through 2009 are now possible. Regional time series in the Sahara, Australia, tropical Africa, South America, and Asia show the methane increase in 2007–2009, but we cannot yet draw a firm conclusion concerning the origin of the increase. Tropical Africa even seems to exhibit a negative anomaly in 2006, but an impact from changes in SCIAMACHY detector degradation cannot be excluded yet. Over Assakrem, Algeria, we observed strong similarities between SCIAMACHY measurements and ground-based data in deseasonalized time series. We further show long-term SCIAMACHY xCH4 averages at high spatial resolution that provide further insight into methane variations on regional scales. The Red Basin in China exhibits, on average, the highest methane abundance worldwide, while other localized features such as the Sudd wetlands in southern Sudan can also be identified in SCIAMACHY xCH4 averages.” C. Frankenberg, I. Aben, P. Bergamaschi, E. J. Dlugokencky, R. van Hees, S. Houweling, P. van der Meer, R. Snel, P. Tol, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012), Volume 116, Issue D4, 27 February 2011, DOI: 10.1029/2010JD014849. [Full text]

Interannual variability and trends in atmospheric methane over the western Pacific from 1994 to 2010 – Terao et al. (2011) “We present an analysis of interannual variability (IAV) and trends in atmospheric methane (CH4) mixing ratios over the western Pacific between 55°N and 35°S from 1994 to 2010. Observations were made by the Center for Global Environmental Research (CGER) of the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), using voluntary observation ships sailing between Japan and Australia/New Zealand and between Japan and North America, sampling background maritime air quasi-monthly (∼10 times per year) with high latitudinal resolution. In addition, simulations of CH4 were performed using NIES atmospheric transport model. A large CH4 increase was observed in the tropics (10°N–5°S) during 1997 (between 15 ± 3 and 19 ± 3 ppb yr−1) and during 1998 for other regions (40°N–50°N: 10 ± 2–16 ± 1 ppb yr−1; 10°S–25°S: 12 ± 2–22 ± 4 ppb yr−1). The CH4 increase leveled off from 1999 to 2006 at all latitudes. The CH4 growth rate was enhanced in 2007 (25°N–50°N: 10 ± 1–12 ± 3 ppb yr−1; 15°S–35°S: 7 ± 1–8 ± 1 ppb yr−1) but diminished thereafter; however, a large CH4 growth (10 ± 1–17 ± 1 ppb yr−1) was observed in 2009 over the northern tropics (0°–15°N). These observations, combined with the simulation results, suggest that to explain the CH4 increase in 2007 would require an increase in surface emissions of ∼20 ± 3 Tg-CH4 yr−1 globally and an increase in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) of 4–7 ± 3 Tg-CH4 yr−1 more than that in the Southern Hemisphere (SH), assuming no change in OH concentrations; alternatively, a decrease in OH concentrations of 4.5 ± 0.6%–5.5 ± 0.5% yr−1 globally would be required if we assume no change in surface emissions. Over the western Pacific, the IAV in CH4 within the northern tropics was characterized by a high growth rate in mid-1997 and a reduced growth in 2007. The present data indicate that these events were strongly influenced by the IAV in atmospheric circulation associated with El Niño and La Niña events. Our observations captured the CH4 anomaly in 1997 associated with forest fires in Indonesia. The IAV and trends in CH4 as seen by our data sets capture the global features of background CH4 levels in the northern midlatitudes and the SH, and regional features of CH4 variations in the western tropical Pacific.” Yukio Terao, Hitoshi Mukai, Yukihiro Nojiri, Toshinobu Machida, Yasunori Tohjima, Tazu Saeki, Shamil Maksyutov, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012), Volume 116, Issue D14, 27 July 2011, DOI: 10.1029/2010JD015467.

Constraining global methane emissions and uptake by ecosystems – Spahni et al. (2011) “Natural methane (CH4) emissions from wet ecosystems are an important part of today’s global CH4 budget. Climate affects the exchange of CH4 between ecosystems and the atmosphere by influencing CH4 production, oxidation, and transport in the soil. The net CH4 exchange depends on ecosystem hydrology, soil and vegetation characteristics. Here, the LPJ-WHyMe global dynamical vegetation model is used to simulate global net CH4 emissions for different ecosystems: northern peatlands (45°–90° N), naturally inundated wetlands (60° S–45° N), rice agriculture and wet mineral soils. Mineral soils are a potential CH4 sink, but can also be a source with the direction of the net exchange depending on soil moisture content. The geographical and seasonal distributions are evaluated against multi-dimensional atmospheric inversions for 2003–2005, using two independent four-dimensional variational assimilation systems. The atmospheric inversions are constrained by the atmospheric CH4 observations of the SCIAMACHY satellite instrument and global surface networks. Compared to LPJ-WHyMe the inversions result in a~significant reduction in the emissions from northern peatlands and suggest that LPJ-WHyMe maximum annual emissions peak about one month late. The inversions do not put strong constraints on the division of sources between inundated wetlands and wet mineral soils in the tropics. Based on the inversion results we diagnose model parameters in LPJ-WHyMe and simulate the surface exchange of CH4 over the period 1990–2008. Over the whole period we infer an increase of global ecosystem CH4 emissions of +1.11 Tg CH4 yr−1, not considering potential additional changes in wetland extent. The increase in simulated CH4 emissions is attributed to enhanced soil respiration resulting from the observed rise in land temperature and in atmospheric carbon dioxide that were used as input. The long-term decline of the atmospheric CH4 growth rate from 1990 to 2006 cannot be fully explained with the simulated ecosystem emissions. However, these emissions show an increasing trend of +3.62 Tg CH4 yr−1 over 2005–2008 which can partly explain the renewed increase in atmospheric CH4 concentration during recent years.” Spahni, R., Wania, R., Neef, L., van Weele, M., Pison, I., Bousquet, P., Frankenberg, C., Foster, P. N., Joos, F., Prentice, I. C., and van Velthoven, P.: Constraining global methane emissions and uptake by ecosystems, Biogeosciences, 8, 1643-1665, doi:10.5194/bg-8-1643-2011, 2011. [Full text]

Long-term analysis of carbon dioxide and methane column-averaged mole fractions retrieved from SCIAMACHY – Schneising et al. (2011) “Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change. SCIAMACHY onboard ENVISAT (launch 2002) was the first and is now with TANSO onboard GOSAT (launch 2009) one of only two satellite instruments currently in space whose measurements are sensitive to CO2 and CH4 concentration changes in the lowest atmospheric layers where the variability due to sources and sinks is largest. We present long-term SCIAMACHY retrievals (2003–2009) of column-averaged dry air mole fractions of both gases (denoted XCO2 and XCH4) derived from absorption bands in the near-infrared/shortwave-infrared (NIR/SWIR) spectral region focusing on large-scale features. The results are obtained using an upgraded version (v2) of the retrieval algorithm WFM-DOAS including several improvements, while simultaneously maintaining its high processing speed. The retrieved mole fractions are compared to global model simulations (CarbonTracker XCO2 and TM5 XCH4) being optimised by assimilating highly accurate surface measurements from the NOAA/ESRL network and taking the SCIAMACHY averaging kernels into account. The comparisons address seasonal variations and long-term characteristics. … The retrieved XCH4 results show that after years of stability, atmospheric methane has started to rise again in recent years which is consistent with surface measurements. The largest increase is observed for the tropics and northern mid- and high-latitudes amounting to about 7.5±1.5 ppb yr−1 since 2007. Due care has been exercised to minimise the influence of detector degradation on the quantitative estimate of this anomaly.” Schneising, O., Buchwitz, M., Reuter, M., Heymann, J., Bovensmann, H., and Burrows, J. P.: Long-term analysis of carbon dioxide and methane column-averaged mole fractions retrieved from SCIAMACHY, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 2863-2880, doi:10.5194/acp-11-2863-2011, 2011. [Full text]

Source attribution of the changes in atmospheric methane for 2006–2008 – Bousquet et al. (2011) “The recent increase of atmospheric methane is investigated by using two atmospheric inversions to quantify the distribution of sources and sinks for the 2006–2008 period, and a process-based model of methane emissions by natural wetland ecosystems. Methane emissions derived from the two inversions are consistent at a global scale: emissions are decreased in 2006 (−7 Tg) and increased in 2007 (+21 Tg) and 2008 (+18 Tg), as compared to the 1999–2006 period. The agreement on the latitudinal partition of the flux anomalies for the two inversions is fair in 2006, good in 2007, and not good in 2008. In 2007, a positive anomaly of tropical emissions is found to be the main contributor to the global emission anomalies (~60–80%) for both inversions, with a dominant share attributed to natural wetlands (~2/3), and a significant contribution from high latitudes (~25%). The wetland ecosystem model produces smaller and more balanced positive emission anomalies between the tropics and the high latitudes for 2006, 2007 and 2008, mainly due to precipitation changes during these years. At a global scale, the agreement between the ecosystem model and the inversions is good in 2008 but not satisfying in 2006 and 2007. Tropical South America and Boreal Eurasia appear to be major contributors to variations in methane emissions consistently in the inversions and the ecosystem model. Finally, changes in OH radicals during 2006–2008 are found to be less than 1% in inversions, with only a small impact on the inferred methane emissions.” Bousquet, P., Ringeval, B., Pison, I., Dlugokencky, E. J., Brunke, E.-G., Carouge, C., Chevallier, F., Fortems-Cheiney, A., Frankenberg, C., Hauglustaine, D. A., Krummel, P. B., Langenfelds, R. L., Ramonet, M., Schmidt, M., Steele, L. P., Szopa, S., Yver, C., Viovy, N., and Ciais, P.: Source attribution of the changes in atmospheric methane for 2006–2008, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 3689-3700, doi:10.5194/acp-11-3689-2011, 2011. [Full text]

Large-Scale Controls of Methanogenesis Inferred from Methane and Gravity Spaceborne Data – Bloom et al. (2010) “Wetlands are the largest individual source of methane (CH4), but the magnitude and distribution of this source are poorly understood on continental scales. We isolated the wetland and rice paddy contributions to spaceborne CH4 measurements over 2003–2005 using satellite observations of gravity anomalies, a proxy for water-table depth Γ, and surface temperature analyses TS. We find that tropical and higher-latitude CH4 variations are largely described by Γ and TS variations, respectively. Our work suggests that tropical wetlands contribute 52 to 58% of global emissions, with the remainder coming from the extra-tropics, 2% of which is from Arctic latitudes. We estimate a 7% rise in wetland CH4 emissions over 2003–2007, due to warming of mid-latitude and Arctic wetland regions, which we find is consistent with recent changes in atmospheric CH4.” A. Anthony Bloom, Paul I. Palmer, Annemarie Fraser, David S. Reay, Christian Frankenberg, Science 15 January 2010: Vol. 327 no. 5963 pp. 322-325, DOI: 10.1126/science.1175176. [Full text]

Seven Years’ Observation of Mid-Upper Tropospheric Methane from Atmospheric Infrared Sounder – Xiong et al. (2010) “The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on EOS/Aqua platform provides a measurement of global methane (CH4)in the mid-upper troposphere since September, 2002. As a thermal infrared sounder, the most sensitivity of AIRS to atmospheric CH4 is in the mid-upper troposphere with the degree of freedom of ~1.0. Validation of AIRS CH4 product versus thousands of aircraft profiles (convolved using the AIRS averaging kernels) demonstrates that its RMS error (RMSE) is mostly less than 1.5%, and its quality is pretty stable from 2003 to 2009. For scientific analysis of the spatial and temporal variation of mid-upper tropospheric CH4 (MUT-CH4) in the High Northern Hemisphere (HNH), it is more valuable to use the AIRS retrieved CH4 in a layer of about 100 hPa below tropopause (“Representative Layer”) than in a fixed pressure layer. Further analysis of deseasonalized time-series of AIRS CH4 in both a fixed pressure layer and the “Representative Layer” of AIRS (only for the HNH) from 2003 to 2009 indicates that, similar to the CH4 in the marine boundary layer (MBL) that was found to increase in 2007–2008, MUT-CH4 was also observed to have a recent increase but the most significant increase occurred in 2008. MUT-CH4 continued to increase in 2009, especially in the HNH. Moreover, the trend of MUT-CH4 from 2006 to 2008 is lower than the trend of CH4 in the MBL by 30–40% in both the southern hemisphere and HNH. This delay for the MUT-CH4 increase of about one year than CH4 in the MBL as well as the smaller increase trend for MUT-CH4 suggest that surface emission is likely a major driver for the recent CH4 increase. It is also found that the seasonal cycle of MUT-CH4 is different from CH4 in the MBL due to the impact of transport, in addition to the surface emission and the photochemical loss.” Xiaozhen Xiong, Chris Barnet, Eric Maddy, Jennifer Wei, Xingpin Liu and Thomas S. Pagano, Remote Sens. 2010, 2(11), 2509-2530; doi:10.3390/rs2112509. [Full text]

Recent changes in methane mixing ratio and its 13C content observed in the southwest Pacific region – Lassey et al. (2010) “After nearly a decade without growth in atmospheric methane, there are indications of renewed growth from 2007. Reports of this renewal portray it as global in extent, and due wholly or largely to growth in emissions. Surface methane mixing ratios and constituent δ13C values have been measured approximately twice monthly at Baring Head, New Zealand (41°S, 175°E) since 1989. Surface mixing ratios have been measured continuously at Lauder, New Zealand (45°S, 170°E) since 2007. Also at Lauder, tropospheric-mean mole fractions of methane have been retrieved from ground-based near-infrared solar spectra since 2004. These mixing ratio datasets are consistent with growth rates of about 7.5 and 4.9 ppb year−1 during 2007 and 2008. We consider the possible origins of this growth based on their imprint on δ13C values.” K.R. Lassey, G. W. Brailsford, A.M. Bromley, R.J. Martin, R.C. Moss, A.J. Gomez, V. Sherlock, W. Allan, S. E. Nichol, H. Schaefer, B.J. Connor, J. Robinson & D. Smale, Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, Volume 7, Supplement 1, 2010, DOI:10.1080/19438151003621441.

Observational constraints on recent increases in the atmospheric CH4 burden – Dlugokencky et al. (2009) “Measurements of atmospheric CH4 from air samples collected weekly at 46 remote surface sites show that, after a decade of near-zero growth, globally averaged atmospheric methane increased during 2007 and 2008. During 2007, CH4 increased by 8.3 ± 0.6 ppb. CH4 mole fractions averaged over polar northern latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere increased more than other zonally averaged regions. In 2008, globally averaged CH4 increased by 4.4 ± 0.6 ppb; the largest increase was in the tropics, while polar northern latitudes did not increase. Satellite and in situ CO observations suggest only a minor contribution to increased CH4 from biomass burning. The most likely drivers of the CH4 anomalies observed during 2007 and 2008 are anomalously high temperatures in the Arctic and greater than average precipitation in the tropics. Near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates.” E. J. Dlugokencky, L. Bruhwiler, J. W. C. White, L. K. Emmons, P. C. Novelli, S. A. Montzka, K. A. Masarie, P. M. Lang, A. M. Crotwell, J. B. Miller, L. V. Gatti, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 36, Issue 18, September 2009, DOI: 10.1029/2009GL039780. [Full text]

Renewed growth of atmospheric methane – Rigby et al. (2008) “Following almost a decade with little change in global atmospheric methane mole fraction, we present measurements from the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) networks that show renewed growth starting near the beginning of 2007. Remarkably, a similar growth rate is found at all monitoring locations from this time until the latest measurements. We use these data, along with an inverse method applied to a simple model of atmospheric chemistry and transport, to investigate the possible drivers of the rise. Specifically, the relative roles of an increase in emission rate or a decrease in concentration of the hydroxyl radical, the largest methane sink, are examined. We conclude that: 1) if the annual mean hydroxyl radical concentration did not change, a substantial increase in emissions was required simultaneously in both hemispheres between 2006 and 2007; 2) if a small drop in the hydroxyl radical concentration occurred, consistent with AGAGE methyl chloroform measurements, the emission increase is more strongly biased to the Northern Hemisphere.” M. Rigby, R. G. Prinn, P. J. Fraser, P. G. Simmonds, R. L. Langenfelds, J. Huang, D. M. Cunnold, L. P. Steele, P. B. Krummel, R. F. Weiss, S. O’Doherty, P. K. Salameh, H. J. Wang, C. M. Harth, J. Mühle, L. W. Porter, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 35, Issue 22, November 2008, DOI: 10.1029/2008GL036037. [Full text]

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2 Responses to “Papers on renewed growth of atmospheric methane”

  1. […] already underway, but simply to note that it is wrong to say methane levels are NOT rising. They are, and once again, Arctic specialists are […]

  2. […] 2013/09/04: AGWObserver: Papers on renewed growth of atmospheric methane […]

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