Publications

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2013
Fraser, A, Palmer PI, Feng L, Boesch H, Cogan A, Parker R, Dlugokencky EJ, Fraser PJ, Krummel PB, Langenfelds RL, O'Doherty S, Prinn RG, Steele LP, van der Schoot M, Weiss RF.  2013.  Estimating regional methane surface fluxes: the relative importance of surface and GOSAT mole fraction measurements. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 13:5697-5713.   10.5194/acp-13-5697-2013   AbstractWebsite

We use an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF), together with the GEOS-Chem chemistry transport model, to estimate regional monthly methane (CH4) fluxes for the period June 2009-December 2010 using proxy dry-air column-averaged mole fractions of methane (XCH4) from GOSAT (Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite) and/or NOAA ESRL (Earth System Research Laboratory) and CSIRO GASLAB (Global Atmospheric Sampling Laboratory) CH4 surface mole fraction measurements. Global posterior estimates using GOSAT and/or surface measurements are between 510-516 Tg yr(-1), which is less than, though within the uncertainty of, the prior global flux of 529 +/- 25 Tg yr(-1). We find larger differences between regional prior and posterior fluxes, with the largest changes in monthly emissions (75 Tg yr(-1)) occurring in Temperate Eurasia. In non-boreal regions the error reductions for inversions using the GOSAT data are at least three times larger (up to 45 %) than if only surface data are assimilated, a reflection of the greater spatial coverage of GOSAT, with the two exceptions of latitudes >60 degrees associated with a data filter and over Europe where the surface network adequately describes fluxes on our model spatial and temporal grid. We use CarbonTracker and GEOS-Chem XCO2 model output to investigate model error on quantifying proxy GOSAT XCH4 (involving model XCO2) and inferring methane flux estimates from surface mole fraction data and show similar resulting fluxes, with differences reflecting initial differences in the proxy value. Using a series of observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) we characterize the posterior flux error introduced by non-uniform atmospheric sampling by GOSAT. We show that clear-sky measurements can theoretically reproduce fluxes within 10% of true values, with the exception of tropical regions where, due to a large seasonal cycle in the number of measurements because of clouds and aerosols, fluxes are within 15% of true fluxes. We evaluate our posterior methane fluxes by incorporating them into GEOS-Chem and sampling the model at the location and time of surface CH4 measurements from the AGAGE (Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment) network and column XCH4 measurements from TCCON (Total Carbon Column Observing Network). The posterior fluxes modestly improve the model agreement with AGAGE and TCCON data relative to prior fluxes, with the correlation coefficients (r(2)) increasing by a mean of 0.04 (range: -0.17 to 0.23) and the biases decreasing by a mean of 0.4 ppb (range: -8.9 to 8.4 ppb).

Kirschke, S, Bousquet P, Ciais P, Saunois M, Canadell JG, Dlugokencky EJ, Bergamaschi P, Bergmann D, Blake DR, Bruhwiler L, Cameron-Smith P, Castaldi S, Chevallier F, Feng L, Fraser A, Heimann M, Hodson EL, Houweling S, Josse B, Fraser PJ, Krummel PB, Lamarque JF, Langenfelds RL, Le Quere C, Naik V, O'Doherty S, Palmer PI, Pison I, Plummer D, Poulter B, Prinn RG, Rigby M, Ringeval B, Santini M, Schmidt M, Shindell DT, Simpson IJ, Spahni R, Steele LP, Strode SA, Sudo K, Szopa S, van der Werf GR, Voulgarakis A, van Weele M, Weiss RF, Williams JE, Zeng G.  2013.  Three decades of global methane sources and sinks. Nature Geoscience. 6:813-823.   10.1038/ngeo1955   AbstractWebsite

Methane is an important greenhouse gas, responsible for about 20% of the warming induced by long-lived greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times. By reacting with hydroxyl radicals, methane reduces the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere and generates ozone in the troposphere. Although most sources and sinks of methane have been identified, their relative contributions to atmospheric methane levels are highly uncertain. As such, the factors responsible for the observed stabilization of atmospheric methane levels in the early 2000s, and the renewed rise after 2006, remain unclear. Here, we construct decadal budgets for methane sources and sinks between 1980 and 2010, using a combination of atmospheric measurements and results from chemical transport models, ecosystem models, climate chemistry models and inventories of anthropogenic emissions. The resultant budgets suggest that data-driven approaches and ecosystem models overestimate total natural emissions. We build three contrasting emission scenarios - which differ in fossil fuel and microbial emissions - to explain the decadal variability in atmospheric methane levels detected, here and in previous studies, since 1985. Although uncertainties in emission trends do not allow definitive conclusions to be drawn, we show that the observed stabilization of methane levels between 1999 and 2006 can potentially be explained by decreasing-to-stable fossil fuel emissions, combined with stable-to-increasing microbial emissions. We show that a rise in natural wetland emissions and fossil fuel emissions probably accounts for the renewed increase in global methane levels after 2006, although the relative contribution of these two sources remains uncertain.

2009
Petrenko, VV, Smith AM, Brook EJ, Lowe D, Riedel K, Brailsford G, Hua Q, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Etheridge D, Severinghaus JP.  2009.  14CH4 measurements in Greenland ice: investigating last glacial termination CH4 sources. Science. 324:506-508.   10.1126/science.1168909   AbstractWebsite

The cause of a large increase of atmospheric methane concentration during the Younger Dryas-Preboreal abrupt climatic transition (similar to 11,600 years ago) has been the subject of much debate. The carbon-14 (C-14) content of methane ((CH4)-C-14) should distinguish between wetland and clathrate contributions to this increase. We present measurements of (CH4)-C-14 in glacial ice, targeting this transition, performed by using ice samples obtained from an ablation site in west Greenland. Measured (CH4)-C-14 values were higher than predicted under any scenario. Sample (CH4)-C-14 appears to be elevated by direct cosmogenic C-14 production in ice. C-14 of CO was measured to better understand this process and correct the sample (CH4)-C-14. Corrected results suggest that wetland sources were likely responsible for the majority of the Younger Dryas-Preboreal CH4 rise.

2008
Petrenko, VV, Severinghaus JP, Brook EJ, Muhle J, Headly M, Harth CM, Schaefer H, Reeh N, Weiss RF, Lowe D, Smith AM.  2008.  A novel method for obtaining very large ancient air samples from ablating glacial ice for analyses of methane radiocarbon. Journal of Glaciology. 54:233-244.   10.3189/002214308784886135   AbstractWebsite

We present techniques for obtaining large (similar to 100 L STP) samples of ancient air for analysis of (14)C of methane ((14)CH(4)) and other trace constituents. Paleoatmospheric (14)CH(4) measurements should constrain the fossil fraction of past methane budgets, as well as provide a definitive test of methane clathrate involvement in large and rapid methane concentration ([CH(4)]) increases that accompanied rapid warming events during the last deglaciation. Air dating to the Younger Dryas-Preboreal and Oldest Dryas-Bolling abrupt climatic transitions was obtained by melt extraction from old glacial ice outcropping at an ablation margin in West Greenland. The outcropping ice and occluded air were dated using a combination of delta(15)N of N(2), delta(18)O of O(2), delta(18)O(ice) and [CH(4)] measurements. The [CH(4)] blank of the melt extractions was <4 ppb. Measurements of delta(18)O and delta(15)N indicated no significant gas isotopic fractionation from handling. Measured Ar/N(2), CFC-11 and CFC-12 in the samples indicated no significant contamination from ambient air. Ar/N(2), Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar ratios in the samples were used to quantify effects of gas dissolution during the melt extractions and correct the sample [CH(4)]. Corrected [CH(4)] is elevated over expected values by up to 132 ppb for most samples, suggesting some in situ CH(4) production in ice at this site.

1997
Severinghaus, JP, Keeling RF, Miller BR, Weiss RF, Deck B, Broecker WS.  1997.  Feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 102:16783-16792.   10.1029/97jd00525   AbstractWebsite

Large unaltered samples of the atmosphere covering the past century would complement the history of atmospheric gases obtained from bubbles in ice cores, enabling measurement of geochemically important species such as O-2, (CH4)-C-14, and (CO)-C-14. Sand dunes are a porous media with interstitial air in diffusive contact with the atmosphere, somewhat analogous to the unconsolidated layer of firn atop glaciers. Recent studies have demonstrated the value of firn as an archive of old air [Battle et al., 1996; Bender et al., 1994a]. Unlike firn, sand dunes are incompressible and so remain permeable to greater depths and may extend the firn record into the past century. To evaluate the feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air, we drilled 60 m deep test holes in the Algodones Dunes, Imperial Valley, California. The main objective was to see if the air in a sand dune is as old as predicted by a diffusion model, or if the dune is rapidly flushed by advective pumping during windstorms and barometric pressure changes. We dated the air with chlorofluorocarbons and krypton-85, anthropogenic tracers whose atmospheric concentrations are known and have been increasing rapidly in the past half century. These tracer data match the pure diffusion model well, showing that advection in this dune is negligible compared to diffusion as a transport mechanism and that the mean age of the air at 61 m depth is similar to 10 years. Dunes therefore do contain old air. However, dunes appear to suffer from two serious drawbacks as archives. Microbial metabolism is evident in elevated CO2 and N2O and depressed CH4 and O-2 concentrations in this dune, corrupting the signals of interest in this and probably most dunes. Second, isotopic analyses of N-2 and O-2 from the dune show that fractionation of the gases occurs due to diffusion of water vapor, complicating the interpretation of the O-2 signal beyond the point of viability for an air archive. Sand dunes may be useful for relatively inert gases with large atmospheric concentration changes such as chlorofluorocarbons.