10 Jul 2020

10 Jul 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ACP.

Accelerating methane growth rate from 2010 to 2017: leading contributions from the tropics and East Asia

Yi Yin1,2, Frederic Chevallier2, Philippe Ciais2, Philippe Bousquet2, Marielle Saunois2, Bo Zheng2, John Worden3, A. Anthony Bloom3, Robert Parker4, Daniel Jacob5, Edward J. Dlugokencky6, and Christian Frankenberg1,3 Yi Yin et al.
  • 1Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 2Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 3Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 4National Centre for Earth Observation, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • 5School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 6NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Abstract. After stagnating in the early 2000s, the atmospheric methane growth rate has been positive since 2007 with a significant acceleration starting in 2014. While causes for previous growth rate variations are still not well determined, this recent increase can be studied with dense surface and satellite observations. Here, we use an ensemble of six multi-tracer atmospheric inversions that have the capacity to assimilate the major tracers in the methane oxidation chain – namely methane, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide – to simultaneously optimize both the methane sources and sinks at each model grid. We show that the recent surge of the atmospheric growth rate between 2010–2013 and 2014–2017 is most likely explained by an increase of global CH4 emissions by 17.5 ± 1.5 Tg yr−1 (mean ± 1σ), while variations in CH4 sinks remained small. The inferred emission increase is consistently supported by both surface and satellite observations, with leading contributions from the tropics wetlands (~ 35 %) and anthropogenic emissions in China (~ 20 %). Such a high consecutive atmospheric growth rate has not been observed since the 1980s and corresponds to unprecedented global total CH4 emissions.

Yi Yin et al.

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Yi Yin et al.


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Short summary
The growth of methane, the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, has been accelerating in the atmosphere in recent years. Using an ensemble of multi-tracer atmospheric inversions constrained by surface or satellite observations, we show that global methane emissions increased by nearly 1 % per year over 2010–2017, with leading contributions from the tropics and East Asia.