10 Nov 2023
 | 10 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Surface networks in the Arctic may miss a future "methane bomb"

Sophie Wittig, Antoine Berchet, Isabelle Pison, Marielle Saunois, and Jean-Daniel Paris

Abstract. The Arctic is warming up to four times faster than the global average, leading to significant environmental changes. Given the sensitivity of natural methane (CH4) sources to environmental conditions, increasing Arctic temperatures are expected to lead to higher CH4 emissions, particularly due to permafrost thaw and the exposure of organic matter. Some estimates therefore assume an Arctic "methane bomb" where vast CH4 amounts are rapidly released. This study examines the ability of the in-situ observation network to detect such events in the Arctic, a generally poorly constrained region. Using the FLEXPART atmospheric transport model and varying CH4 emission scenarios, we found that areas with a dense observation network could detect a "methane bomb" in 2 to 10 years. In contrast, regions with sparse coverage would need 10 to 30 years, with potential false positives in other areas.

Sophie Wittig et al.

Status: open (until 22 Dec 2023)

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Sophie Wittig et al.


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Short summary
The aim of this work is to analyse how accurately a "methane bomb" event could be detected with the current and a hypothetically extended, stationary observation network in the Arctic. Therefore, we incorporate synthetically modelled possible future CH4 concentrations based on plausible emission scenarios into an inverse modelling framework. We analyse how well the increase is detected in different Arctic regions and evaluate the impact of additional observation sites in this respect.