Atmospheric methane isotopic record favors fossil sources flat in 1980s and 1990s with recent increase.
ABSTRACT: Observations of atmospheric methane (CH4) since the late 1970s and measurements of CH4 trapped in ice and snow reveal a meteoric rise in concentration during much of the twentieth century. Since 1750, levels of atmospheric CH4 have more than doubled to current globally averaged concentration near 1,800 ppb. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the CH4 growth rate slowed substantially and was near or at zero between 1999 and 2006. There is no scientific consensus on the drivers of this slowdown. Here, we report measurements of the stable isotopic composition of atmospheric CH4 ((13)C/(12)C and D/H) from a rare air archive dating from 1977 to 1998. Together with more modern records of isotopic atmospheric CH4, we performed a time-dependent retrieval of methane fluxes spanning 25 y (1984-2009) using a 3D chemical transport model. This inversion results in a 24 [18, 27] Tg y(-1) CH4 increase in fugitive fossil fuel emissions since 1984 with most of this growth occurring after year 2000. This result is consistent with some bottom-up emissions inventories but not with recent estimates based on atmospheric ethane. In fact, when forced with decreasing emissions from fossil fuel sources our inversion estimates unreasonably high emissions in other sources. Further, the inversion estimates a decrease in biomass-burning emissions that could explain falling ethane abundance. A range of sensitivity tests suggests that these results are robust.
Project description:Several viable but conflicting explanations have been proposed to explain the recent ~8?p.p.b. per year increase in atmospheric methane after 2006, equivalent to net emissions increase of ~25?Tg CH4 per year. A concurrent increase in atmospheric ethane implicates a fossil source; a concurrent decrease in the heavy isotope content of methane points toward a biogenic source, while other studies propose a decrease in the chemical sink (OH). Here we show that biomass burning emissions of methane decreased by 3.7 (±1.4)?Tg CH4 per year from the 2001-2007 to the 2008-2014 time periods using satellite measurements of CO and CH4, nearly twice the decrease expected from prior estimates. After updating both the total and isotopic budgets for atmospheric methane with these revised biomass burning emissions (and assuming no change to the chemical sink), we find that fossil fuels contribute between 12-19?Tg CH4 per year to the recent atmospheric methane increase, thus reconciling the isotopic- and ethane-based results.
Project description:Accurate knowledge of 13C isotopic signature (δ13C) of methane from each source is crucial for separating biogenic, fossil fuel and pyrogenic emissions in bottom-up and top-down methane budget. Livestock production is the largest anthropogenic source in the global methane budget, mostly from enteric fermentation of domestic ruminants. However, the global average, geographical distribution and temporal variations of the δ13C of enteric emissions are not well understood yet. Here, we provide a new estimation of C3-C4 diet composition of domestic ruminants (cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep), a revised estimation of yearly enteric CH4 emissions, and a new estimation for the evolution of its δ13C during the period 1961-2012. Compared to previous estimates, our results suggest a larger contribution of ruminants' enteric emissions to the increasing trend in global methane emissions between 2000 and 2012, and also a larger contribution to the observed decrease in the δ13C of atmospheric methane.
Project description:The observed rise in atmospheric methane (CH4) from 375 ppbv during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM: 21,000 years ago) to 680 ppbv during the late preindustrial era is not well understood. Atmospheric chemistry considerations implicate an increase in CH4 sources, but process-based estimates fail to reproduce the required amplitude. CH4 stable isotopes provide complementary information that can help constrain the underlying causes of the increase. We combine Earth System model simulations of the late preindustrial and LGM CH4 cycles, including process-based estimates of the isotopic discrimination of vegetation, in a box model of atmospheric CH4 and its isotopes. Using a Bayesian approach, we show how model-based constraints and ice core observations may be combined in a consistent probabilistic framework. The resultant posterior distributions point to a strong reduction in wetland and other biogenic CH4 emissions during the LGM, with a modest increase in the geological source, or potentially natural or anthropogenic fires, accounting for the observed enrichment of δ13CH4.
Project description:Urban emissions remain an underexamined part of the methane budget. Here we present and interpret aircraft observations of six old and leak-prone major cities along the East Coast of the United States. We use direct observations of methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ethane (C2H6), and their correlations to quantify CH4 emissions and attribute to natural gas. We find the five largest cities emit 0.85 (0.63, 1.12) Tg CH4/year, of which 0.75 (0.49, 1.10) Tg CH4/year is attributed to natural gas. Our estimates, which include all thermogenic methane sources including end use, are more than twice that reported in the most recent gridded EPA inventory, which does not include end-use emissions. These results highlight that current urban inventory estimates of natural gas emissions are substantially low, either due to underestimates of leakage, lack of inclusion of end-use emissions, or some combination thereof.
Project description:Published estimates of methane emissions from atmospheric data (top-down approaches) exceed those from source-based inventories (bottom-up approaches), leading to conflicting claims about the climate implications of fuel switching from coal or petroleum to natural gas. Based on data from a coordinated campaign in the Barnett Shale oil and gas-producing region of Texas, we find that top-down and bottom-up estimates of both total and fossil methane emissions agree within statistical confidence intervals (relative differences are 10% for fossil methane and 0.1% for total methane). We reduced uncertainty in top-down estimates by using repeated mass balance measurements, as well as ethane as a fingerprint for source attribution. Similarly, our bottom-up estimate incorporates a more complete count of facilities than past inventories, which omitted a significant number of major sources, and more effectively accounts for the influence of large emission sources using a statistical estimator that integrates observations from multiple ground-based measurement datasets. Two percent of oil and gas facilities in the Barnett accounts for half of methane emissions at any given time, and high-emitting facilities appear to be spatiotemporally variable. Measured oil and gas methane emissions are 90% larger than estimates based on the US Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Inventory and correspond to 1.5% of natural gas production. This rate of methane loss increases the 20-y climate impacts of natural gas consumed in the region by roughly 50%.
Project description:Changes in tropical wetland, ruminant or rice emissions are thought to have played a role in recent variations in atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations. India has the world's largest ruminant population and produces ~?20% of the world's rice. Therefore, changes in these sources could have significant implications for global warming. Here, we infer India's CH4 emissions for the period 2010-2015 using a combination of satellite, surface and aircraft data. We apply a high-resolution atmospheric transport model to simulate data from these platforms to infer fluxes at sub-national scales and to quantify changes in rice emissions. We find that average emissions over this period are 22.0 (19.6-24.3) Tg?yr-1, which is consistent with the emissions reported by India to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change. Annual emissions have not changed significantly (0.2?±?0.7?Tg?yr-1) between 2010 and 2015, suggesting that major CH4 sources did not change appreciably. These findings are in contrast to another major economy, China, which has shown significant growth in recent years due to increasing fossil fuel emissions. However, the trend in a global emission inventory has been overestimated for China due to incorrect rate of fossil fuel growth. Here, we find growth has been overestimated in India but likely due to ruminant and waste sectors.India's methane emissions have been quantified using atmospheric measurements to provide an independent comparison with reported emissions. Here Ganesan et al. find that derived methane emissions are consistent with India's reports and no significant trend has been observed between 2010-2015.
Project description:Atmospheric methane (CH4) records reconstructed from polar ice cores represent an integrated view on processes predominantly taking place in the terrestrial biogeosphere. Here, we present dual stable isotopic methane records [δ13CH4 and δD(CH4)] from four Antarctic ice cores, which provide improved constraints on past changes in natural methane sources. Our isotope data show that tropical wetlands and seasonally inundated floodplains are most likely the controlling sources of atmospheric methane variations for the current and two older interglacials and their preceding glacial maxima. The changes in these sources are steered by variations in temperature, precipitation, and the water table as modulated by insolation, (local) sea level, and monsoon intensity. Based on our δD(CH4) constraint, it seems that geologic emissions of methane may play a steady but only minor role in atmospheric CH4 changes and that the glacial budget is not dominated by these sources. Superimposed on the glacial/interglacial variations is a marked difference in both isotope records, with systematically higher values during the last 25,000 y compared with older time periods. This shift cannot be explained by climatic changes. Rather, our isotopic methane budget points to a marked increase in fire activity, possibly caused by biome changes and accumulation of fuel related to the late Pleistocene megafauna extinction, which took place in the course of the last glacial.
Project description:Methane emissions from natural gas delivery and end use must be quantified to evaluate the environmental impacts of natural gas and to develop and assess the efficacy of emission reduction strategies. We report natural gas emission rates for 1 y in the urban region of Boston, using a comprehensive atmospheric measurement and modeling framework. Continuous methane observations from four stations are combined with a high-resolution transport model to quantify the regional average emission flux, 18.5 ± 3.7 (95% confidence interval) g CH4 ? m(-2) ? y(-1). Simultaneous observations of atmospheric ethane, compared with the ethane-to-methane ratio in the pipeline gas delivered to the region, demonstrate that natural gas accounted for ? 60-100% of methane emissions, depending on season. Using government statistics and geospatial data on natural gas use, we find the average fractional loss rate to the atmosphere from all downstream components of the natural gas system, including transmission, distribution, and end use, was 2.7 ± 0.6% in the Boston urban region, with little seasonal variability. This fraction is notably higher than the 1.1% implied by the most closely comparable emission inventory.
Project description:We determined methane (CH4) emissions from Alaska using airborne measurements from the Carbon Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE). Atmospheric sampling was conducted between May and September 2012 and analyzed using a customized version of the polar weather research and forecast model linked to a Lagrangian particle dispersion model (stochastic time-inverted Lagrangian transport model). We estimated growing season CH4 fluxes of 8 ± 2 mg CH4?m(-2)?d(-1) averaged over all of Alaska, corresponding to fluxes from wetlands of 56(-13)(+22) mg CH4?m(-2)?d(-1) if we assumed that wetlands are the only source from the land surface (all uncertainties are 95% confidence intervals from a bootstrapping analysis). Fluxes roughly doubled from May to July, then decreased gradually in August and September. Integrated emissions totaled 2.1 ± 0.5 Tg CH4 for Alaska from May to September 2012, close to the average (2.3; a range of 0.7 to 6 Tg CH4) predicted by various land surface models and inversion analyses for the growing season. Methane emissions from boreal Alaska were larger than from the North Slope; the monthly regional flux estimates showed no evidence of enhanced emissions during early spring or late fall, although these bursts may be more localized in time and space than can be detected by our analysis. These results provide an important baseline to which future studies can be compared.
Project description:This study quantitatively estimates the spatial distribution of anthropogenic methane sources in the United States by combining comprehensive atmospheric methane observations, extensive spatial datasets, and a high-resolution atmospheric transport model. Results show that current inventories from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research underestimate methane emissions nationally by a factor of ?1.5 and ?1.7, respectively. Our study indicates that emissions due to ruminants and manure are up to twice the magnitude of existing inventories. In addition, the discrepancy in methane source estimates is particularly pronounced in the south-central United States, where we find total emissions are ?2.7 times greater than in most inventories and account for 24 ± 3% of national emissions. The spatial patterns of our emission fluxes and observed methane-propane correlations indicate that fossil fuel extraction and refining are major contributors (45 ± 13%) in the south-central United States. This result suggests that regional methane emissions due to fossil fuel extraction and processing could be 4.9 ± 2.6 times larger than in EDGAR, the most comprehensive global methane inventory. These results cast doubt on the US EPA's recent decision to downscale its estimate of national natural gas emissions by 25-30%. Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories.