In situ measurements of atmospheric methane at GAGE/AGAGE sites during 1985–2000 and resulting source inferences

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Abstract

[1] Continuous measurements of methane since 1986 at the Global Atmospherics Gases Experiment/Advanced Global Atmospherics Gases Experiment (GAGE/AGAGE) surface sites are described. The precisions range from approximately 10 ppb at Mace Head, Ireland, during GAGE to better than 2 ppb at Cape Grim, Tasmania, during AGAGE (i.e., since 1993). The measurements exhibit good agreement with coincident measurements of air samples from the same locations analyzed by Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL) except for differences of approximately 5 ppb before 1989 (GAGE lower) and about 4 ppb from 1991 to 1995 (GAGE higher). These results are obtained before applying a factor of 1.0119 to the GAGE/AGAGE values to place them on the Tohoku University scale. The measurements combined with a 12-box atmospheric model and an assumed atmospheric lifetime of 9.1 years indicates net annual emissions (emissions minus soil sinks) of 545 Tg CH4 with a variability of only ±20 Tg from 1985 to 1997 but an increase in the emissions in 1998 of 37 ± 10 Tg. The effect of OH changes inferred by Prinn et al. [2001] is to increase the estimated methane emissions by approximately 20 Tg in the mid-1980s and to reduce them by 20 Tg in 1997 and by more thereafter. Using a two-dimensional (2-D), 12-box model with transport constrained by the GAGE/AGAGE chlorofluorocarbon measurements, we calculate that the proportion of the emissions coming from the Northern Hemisphere is between 73 and 81%, depending on the OH distribution used. However, this result includes an adjustment of 5% derived from a simulation of the 2-D estimation procedure using the 3-D MOZART model. This adjustment is needed because of the very different spatial emission distributions of the chlorofluorocarbons and methane which makes chlorofluorocarbons derived transport rates inaccurate for the 2-D simulation of methane. The 2-D model combined with the annual cycle in OH from Spivakovsky et al. [2000] provide an acceptable fit to the observed 12-month cycles in methane. The trend in the amplitude of the annual cycle of methane at Cape Grim is used to infer a trend in OH in 30°–90°S of 0 ± 5% per decade from 1985 to 2000, in qualitative agreement with Prinn et al. [2001] for the Southern Hemisphere.

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