Methane and other greenhouse gases in the Arctic - measurements, process studies and modelling (MAMM)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Earth Atmospheric and Env Sciences

Abstract

The Arctic is a major source of atmospheric methane and other greenhouse gases, with both natural and anthropogenic emissions. Arctic greenhouse gas sources have the potential to be important globally, changing radiative forcing and atmospheric oxidizing capacity. Moreover, both palaeorecords and present-day studies suggest some sources, such as wetlands and methane hydrates, may show strong positive feedbacks [Nisbet and Chappellaz, 2009], so that the warming feeds the warming. It is urgent that Arctic greenhouse gas sources should be quantified, by strength, geographic location, character (e.g. wetland, gasfield, clathrate), and by temporal variation (summer, winter, day, night), and their vulnerability to change assessed.
We will address these issues by an integrated program of measurement and modelling. Analysis of gas mixing ratios (concentrations), isotopic character, and source fluxes, will be made both from the ground and aircraft. Both past and new measurements will be modelled using a suite of techniques. Fluxes will be implemented into the JULES land surface model. Atmospheric modelling, including trajectory and inverse modelling will improve understanding on the local/regional scale, placing the role of Arctic emissions in large scale global atmospheric change.

Planned Impact

Greenhouse warming is a highly significant social, political and scientific issue. Any scientific study that seeks to increase our understanding of greenhouse gases (GHG) potentially has wide ranging impact. The MAMM project will therefore have significant impact across a wide spectrum of stakeholders.

Who will benefit from this research?

Scientific community. This work will be of significant scientific interest nationally and internationally. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project will ensure the results are relevant to atmospheric scientists, geologists and land-surface scientists.

Policymakers. The Arctic is a region of rapid change and currently much uncertainty exists about its role in contributing to growth in GHG, underlining the need for investment in Arctic research. This project will have a direct bearing on understanding the role of the Arctic in global warming for policymaking purposes. Therefore, policymakers in government and scientific bodies (such as IPCC) will all be users of the project outcomes.

Business. The UK Met Office will benefit from the close links with this project through collaborations for provision of modelling capability and measurements. Instrument companies have expressed interest in collaborating with MAMM scientists.

General public / media. There has been significant publicity in recent years on GHG and the Arctic. However, confusion is still apparent; for example, in a recent school visit 3 out of 4 6th form students thought the most abundant greenhouse gas was methane.

How will they benefit?

Scientific community. There is a lack of observations of GHG, particularly CH4 isotopic data, in the Arctic so the dataset gathered by this project will be important for the scientific community. Improvements to instruments during and after this project are likely. Improved national modelling capability will result that may enhance our ability to model polar climate change in Earth System Models. Project results will be widely reported in publications, international conferences, and an Arctic themed national conference as well as existing projects and collaborations such as MethaneNet, EU-GEOmon, etc. Project results will feed into future IPCC assessments.

Policymakers. Project PIs have provided advice to the UK government, contributed to EU policy committees, as well as to IPCC and WMO panels and assessments. Many opportunities exist for MAMM scientists to raise awareness of the role of the Arctic and of NERC's Arctic programme at the policy level, influencing legislation. In addition, project PDRAs will be encouraged to participate in the various 'science into policy' schemes that exist with the Royal Society and NERC.

Business. The UK Met Office is a key beneficiary of the MAMM project. They are providing the ARIES instrument during field campaigns and will benefit from field tests, leading to improved radiation modelling for the Met Office. They will also benefit from access to the new data and improvements to modelling capability through the UKCA and JULES projects. Instrument manufacturers will also benefit from advertising their involvement in a high profile scientific campaign and field testing of equipment e.g. Aerodyne Inc have expressed a wish to test their new instrument during the campaign.

General public / media. Our aim will be to raise awareness of the role of the Arctic and improve scientific understanding surrounding greenhouse warming. We will do this by media interviews and press releases during the project. Articles for popular science magazines will also be produced. A project website will be established along with a website aimed at presenting Arctic science to schoolchildren. Through podcasts and other web technologies we will aim to reach a wide audience. Local events such as national science week and presentations to local schools enhance the outreach from this project.

Publications

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Cain M (2017) A cautionary tale: A study of a methane enhancement over the North Sea in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

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Grant Allen (Author) (2013) Methane: The Unnatural Gas in Science in Parliament -Harlow then London-

 
Description MAMM has used aircraft research flights to derive a flux of methane from the UK and these have been shown to be broadly in agreement with early measured estimates for methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

During the Elgin gas leak in March-May 2012, the MAMM project was able to respond using the FAAM aircraft fitted with greenhouse gas instruments and, using a series of downwind transects of the plume, sample the gas concentration and derive a leakage rate of methane from the platform. Subsequent flights were also used to derive a leak rate. This was a very important contribution to the assessment of the leak and confirmed that methane was not emanating from the main reservoir.
Exploitation Route see above. This data was a civil contingency response and the data were collected directly to address the leakage rates from the rig. The data were supplied directly to Total, the company running the rig. Total used this information in its assessment case to DEFRA.
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description Key findings resulting from MAMM at the University of Manchester concern new methodologies and instrumentation for the measurement of methane both in Arctic environments and more widely (e.g. "hotspot" areas like landfills and fracking sites). And our papers and conference presentations on regional scalability of flux calculations (from local to regional scales) are already providing global leadership on how to apply methodologies in analogous environments (e.g. boreal Canada and Siberia). A key finding was that measured methane fluxes are much lower than those estimated by current state-of-the-art land surface models, which is leading to refinement of the models and understandign of the factors controlling bias in the JULES model. These outcomes have led to a recently submitted NERC large grant application (which includes Dr Allen from this team) to complete the broeal narrative on methane fluxes. Together with synergistic activity on other NERC projects (Dr Allen's Fellowship and the GAUGE programme), we have also developed drone aircraft measurement techniques that we are currently operating in ongoing projects with the UK Environment Agency for regulatory monitoring of fugitve emissions of methane. This also resulted in a policy guidance note and faesibility study by Dr Allen that has been published by the Agency. Dr Allen was also invited to be a reviewer on the DECC Mackay and Stone report on "the potential for fugitive emissions from fracking in the UK" and this has led to guidance on new monitoring techniques for fugitive methane assessment and Dr Allen is working with Cuadrilla, in the UK on a baseline methane monitoring study ahead of operations for statistical analysis using transport models and local flux methods.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Environmental footprint of exploratory hydraulic fracturing in the UK
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Building on work and instrument characterisation conducted during the first MAMM field campaign, Dr. Allen has been consulted by DECC to report on the potential impacts and long-term monitoring of fugitive emissions of methane from fracking operations in the UK. Dr. Allen is working with partners from NRL and the EPA in the USA to decide best practice internationally in this context and future research in this area is envisioned.
 
Description Strategic Programme
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N015835/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 04/2020
 
Description Technology Proof Of Concept
Amount £101,803 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P003737/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description NILU - Svalbard sampling of seabed methane flux 
Organisation Newlife
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Manchester flew aircraft sampling airborne methane concentrations and fluxes.
Collaborator Contribution NILU conducted Svalbard sampling of seabed methane flux
Impact none yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Arctic Science Expo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact FAAM mock-up cockpit went to Edinburgh in Oct 2015 - public engagement with hands on display
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Greenhouse Gas Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Grant Allen taught at this workshop on aircraft flux approaches in August 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Manchester Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Manchester Science Festival is a one week event in November each year. Throughout the week a number of stalls are open for the public to engage with a range of different areas of research through interactive demos and discussions with staff engaged in the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
URL http://www.manchestersciencefestival.com/information/about-the-festival
 
Description NERC Into the Blue 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact NERC Into the Blue - a week long event at Manchester Airport showcasing the FAAM aircraft and a wide range of NERC science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016