06 Feb 2023
 | 06 Feb 2023

Decreasing seasonal cycle amplitude of methane in the northern high latitudes being driven by lower latitude changes in emissions and transport

Emily Dowd, Chris Wilson, Martyn P. Chipperfield, Emanuel Gloor, Alistair Manning, and Ruth Doherty

Abstract. Atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations are rising which is expected to lead to a corresponding increase in its global seasonal cycle amplitude (SCA), the difference between its seasonal maximum and minimum values. Spatially-varying changes in the SCA could indicate long-term persistent variations in the seasonal sources and sinks but such SCA changes have not been investigated. Here we use surface flask measurements and a 3-D chemical transport model (TOMCAT) to diagnose changes in the SCA of atmospheric CH4 between 1995–2020 and attribute the changes regionally to contributions from different sectors. We find that the observed SCA decreased by 4 ppb (7.6 %) in the northern high latitudes (NHL, 60° N–90° N), whilst globally the SCA increased by 2.5 ppb (6.5 %) during this time period. TOMCAT reproduces the change in the SCA at observation sites across the globe and therefore we use it to attribute regions which are contributing to the changes in the NHL SCA. We find that well-mixed background CH4, likely from emissions originating in, and transported from, more southerly latitudes has the largest impact on the decreasing SCA in the NHL (56.5 % of total contribution to NHL). In addition to the background CH4, recent emissions from Canada, the Middle East and Europe contribute 16.9 %, 12.1 % and 8.4 %, respectively, to the total change in the SCA in the NHL. The regional contributions are driven by increases in summer emissions from the Boreal Plains in Canada, decreases in winter emissions across Europe, and a combination of increases in summer emissions and decreases in winter emissions over the Arabian Peninsula and Caspian Sea in the Middle East. These results highlight that changes in the observed seasonal cycle can be an indicator of changing emission regimes in local and non-local regions, particularly in the NHL where the change is counter-intuitive.

Emily Dowd et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-132', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-132', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Mar 2023

Emily Dowd et al.


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Short summary
Surface observations of methane show the seasonal cycle amplitude (SCA) of methane is decreasing in the Northern High Latitudes (NHL) but increasing globally between 1995–2020. The decrease in the NHL is counter-intuitive as we expect the SCA to increase with increasing concentrations. We use a chemical transport model to investigate change in SCA in the NHL. We find well-mixed methane and changes in emissions from Canada, Middle East, and Europe are the largest contributors to the SCA in NHL.