Reduced biomass burning emissions reconcile conflicting estimates of the post-2006 atmospheric methane budget

John R. Worden, A. Anthony Bloom, Sudhanshu Pandey, Zhe Jiang, Helen M. Worden, Thomas W. Walker, Sander Houweling, Thomas Röckmann

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Several viable but conflicting explanations have been proposed to explain the recent textasciitilde8 p.p.b. per year increase in atmospheric methane after 2006, equivalent to net emissions increase of textasciitilde25 Tg CH4 per year. A concurrent increase in atmospheric ethane implicates a fossil source; a concurrent decrease in the heavy isotope content?of methane points toward a biogenic source, while other studies propose a decrease in the chemical sink (OH). Here we show that biomass burning emissions of methane decreased by 3.7 (textpm1.4) Tg CH4 per year from the 2001-2007 to the 2008-2014 time periods using satellite measurements of CO and CH4, nearly twice the decrease expected from prior estimates. After updating both the total and isotopic budgets for atmospheric methane with these revised biomass burning emissions (and assuming no change to the chemical sink), we find that fossil fuels contribute between 12-19 Tg CH4 per year to the recent atmospheric methane increase, thus reconciling the isotopic- and ethane-based results.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Article number2227
Pages (from-to)2227
Number of pages1
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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