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Atmospheric methane (CH4) is the second most important greenhouse gas, and has a short lifetime when compared to CO2. Reductions in emissions of methane could bring about rapid reductions to the amount in the atmosphere with immediate benefits for climate. Arctic greenhouse gas sources need to be quantified and their vulnerability to change assessed.

The Methane in the Arctic: Measurements and Modelling (MAMM) project combines ground and aircraft based measurements of methane in the Arctic with regional and global computer modelling. It aims to understand current methane emissions and to simulate the impact of future climates on Arctic emissions.

MAMM 146 KeithBowerThe Arctic is a major source of atmospheric methane. Arctic methane comes from several distinct sources: wetlands, industrial gas leaks, decaying land and submarine methane clathrates, thermokarsts and fires.
Arctic greenhouse gas sources have the potential to be important globally, changing radiative forcing and atmospheric oxidizing capacity. Both palaeo-records and present-day studies suggest some sources such as wetlands and methane hydrates, may show strong positive feedbacks.

The aim of the ground-based measurements is to assess methane fluxes into the atmosphere by season, source type, and isotopic signature. Wetland emissions are the main focus because they appear to be the dominant Arctic methane response to climate change, and an improved understanding of methane fluxes from Arctic wetlands will be incorporated into the JULES land surface model.

The observations will also be used with an inverse modeling technique to calculate emissions sources. Chemistry/transport and chemistry/climate models will be used to assess the role of the Arctic in recent changes in atmospheric methane, and the overall importance of the Arctic for atmospheric composition and radiative forcing.

MAMM will take measurements in Northern Europe into the Arctic Circle using the FAAM BAe146 research aircraft and at a number of surface sites. The MAMM measurements will be used alongside established ground station measurements, satellite observations and potentially other ship- and aircraft-based field campaign measurements.

Photo - The FAAM/MetOffice BAE-146 research aircraft on the runway in Kiruna, Northern Sweden. Photo Credit - Keith Bower

The MAMM specific aims are:

  1. To collect new datasets and knowledge about CH4, N2O, CO2, H2, CO, SF6, O2/N2, Ar/N2 and δ 13CH4.
  2. To improve quantitative knowledge of Arctic methane and other gases from various sources (wetlands, natural gas, clathrates). For example, to determine magnitudes and spatial distributions of gases, and to develop process understanding (e.g. dependence of flux on temperature).
  3. To investigate how different climate change scenarios could affect Arctic methane emissions.

Blog & Podcasts

2013 Blog - http://arcticmethane.wordpress.com/

The blogs are also going to be featured on Scientific American - http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/

Dr Michelle Cain's blog from the 2012 measurement campaign - ttp://civiltalker.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/arctic-methane-here-we-come/

A series of daily podcasts that will be hosted by 'The Barometer': http://thebarometer.podbean.com