Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
12 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 12 Dec 2014

Comparison of the HadGEM2 climate-chemistry model against in situ and SCIAMACHY atmospheric methane data

G. D. Hayman, F. M. O'Connor, M. Dalvi, D. B. Clark, N. Gedney, C. Huntingford, C. Prigent, M. Buchwitz, O. Schneising, J. P. Burrows, C. Wilson, N. Richards, and M. Chipperfield

Abstract. Wetlands are a major emission source of methane (CH4) globally. In this study, we evaluate wetland emission estimates derived using the UK community land surface model (JULES, the Joint UK Land Earth Simulator) against atmospheric observations of methane, including, for the first time, total methane columns derived from the SCIAMACHY instrument on board the ENVISAT satellite.

Two JULES wetland emission estimates are investigated: (a) from an offline run driven with Climatic Research Unit–National Centers for Environmental Prediction (CRU-NCEP) meteorological data and (b) from the same offline run in which the modelled wetland fractions are replaced with those derived from the Global Inundation Extent from Multi-Satellites (GIEMS) remote sensing product. The mean annual emission assumed for each inventory (181 Tg CH4 per annum over the period 1999–2007) is in line with other recently published estimates. There are regional differences as the unconstrained JULES inventory gives significantly higher emissions in the Amazon (by ~36 Tg CH4 yr−1) and lower emissions in other regions (by up to 10 Tg CH4 yr−1) compared to the JULES estimates constrained with the GIEMS product.

Using the UK Hadley Centre's Earth System model with atmospheric chemistry (HadGEM2), we evaluate these JULES wetland emissions against atmospheric observations of methane. We obtain improved agreement with the surface concentration measurements, especially at high northern latitudes, compared to previous HadGEM2 runs using the wetland emission data set of Fung et al. (1991). Although the modelled monthly atmospheric methane columns reproduce the large-scale patterns in the SCIAMACHY observations, they are biased low by 50 part per billion by volume (ppb). Replacing the HadGEM2 modelled concentrations above 300 hPa with HALOE–ACE assimilated TOMCAT output results in a significantly better agreement with the SCIAMACHY observations. The use of the GIEMS product to constrain the JULES-derived wetland fraction improves the representation of the wetland emissions in JULES and gives a good description of the seasonality observed at surface sites influenced by wetlands, especially at high latitudes. We find that the annual cycles observed in the SCIAMACHY measurements and at many of the surface sites influenced by non-wetland sources cannot be reproduced in these HadGEM2 runs. This suggests that the emissions over certain regions (e.g. India and China) are possibly too high and/or the monthly emission patterns for specific sectors are incorrect.

The comparisons presented in this paper show that the performance of the JULES wetland scheme is comparable to that of other process-based land surface models. We identify areas for improvement in this and the atmospheric chemistry components of the HadGEM Earth System model. The Earth Observation data sets used here will be of continued value in future evaluations of JULES and the HadGEM family of models.

Short summary
Globally, wetlands are a major source of methane, which is the second most important greenhouse gas. We find the JULES wetland methane scheme to perform well in general, although there is a tendency for it to overpredict emissions in the tropics and underpredict them in northern latitudes. Our study highlights novel uses of satellite data as a major tool to constrain land-atmosphere methane flux models in a warming world.
Final-revised paper