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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  28 Aug 2020

28 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Aircraft-based inversions quantify the importance of wetlands and livestock for Upper Midwest methane emissions

Xueying Yu1, Dylan B. Millet1, Kelley C. Wells1, Daven K. Henze2, Hansen Cao2, Timothy J. Griffis1, Eric A. Kort3, Genevieve Plant3, Malte J. Deventer1,4, Randall K. Kolka5, D. Tyler Roman5, Kenneth J. Davis6, Ankur R. Desai7, Bianca C. Baier8,9, Kathryn McKain8,9, Alan C. Czarnetzki10, and A. Anthony Bloom11 Xueying Yu et al.
  • 1Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, United States
  • 2Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309, United States
  • 3Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, United States
  • 4Bioclimatology, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 5Northern Research Station, US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Grand Rapids, Minnesota 55744, United States
  • 6Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, United States
  • 7Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, United States
  • 8Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, United States
  • 9Global Monitoring Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado 80305, United States
  • 10Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614, United States
  • 11Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, United States

Abstract. We apply airborne measurements across three seasons (summer, winter, spring 2017–2018) in a multi-inversion framework to quantify methane emissions from the US Corn Belt and Upper Midwest, a key agricultural and wetland source region. Combing our seasonal results with prior fall values we find that wetlands are the largest regional methane source (32 %, 20 [16–23] Gg/d), while livestock (enteric/manure; 25 %, 15 [14–17] Gg/d) are the largest anthropogenic source. Natural gas/petroleum, waste/landfills, and coal mines collectively make up the remainder. Optimized fluxes improve model agreement with independent datasets within and beyond the study timeframe. Inversions reveal coherent and seasonally dependent spatial errors in the WetCHARTs ensemble mean wetland emissions, with an underestimate for the Prairie Pothole region but an overestimate for Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Wetland extent and emission temperature dependence have the largest influence on prediction accuracy; better representation of coupled soil temperature-hydrology effects is therefore needed. Our optimized regional livestock emissions agree well with Gridded EPA estimates during spring (to within 7 %), but are ~ 25 % higher during summer/winter. Spatial analysis further shows good top-down/bottom-up agreement for beef facilities, but larger (~ 30 %) seasonal discrepancies for dairies and hog farms. Findings thus support bottom-up enteric emission estimates but suggest errors for manure; we propose that the latter reflects inadequate treatment of management factors including field application. Overall, our results confirm the importance of intensive animal agriculture for regional methane emissions, implying substantial mitigation opportunities through improved management.

Xueying Yu et al.

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Xueying Yu et al.

Data sets

Airborne measurements from the GEM study Dylan B. Millet and Xueying Yu

Xueying Yu et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Methane concentrations have doubled since 1750. The US Upper Midwest is a key region contributing to such trends, but sources are poorly understood. We collected and analyzed aircraft data to resolve spatial and timing biases in wetland and livestock emission estimates, and uncover errors in inventory treatment of manure management. We highlight the importance of intensive agriculture for the regional and US methane budgets, and the potential for methane mitigation through improved management.
Methane concentrations have doubled since 1750. The US Upper Midwest is a key region...