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

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences


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

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.


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Keeling R (2014) Treatise on Geochemistry

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Manning AC (2011) Greenhouse gases in the Earth system: setting the agenda to 2030. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

Title Calibration Cylinder Filling Facility (CFF) 
Description New infrastructure for preparing and filling calibration cylinders for atmospheric measurement of greenhouse gases and related species. The facility can prepare cylinders with below and above ambient concentrations of the desired species, in dry air, at pressures of up to 300 bar. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Calibration cylinders from this facility have been used to calibrate instrumentation on the FAAM BAe146, as well as used to support the research output from a wide variety of NERC and EU research projects. 
Title WAO 
Description Atmospheric time series data sets from Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory, Norfolk, UK. Includes O2 (since 2007), CO2 (since 2007) and CH4 (since 2013). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Studies of GHG sources and sinks in the UK and North Sea region. 
Title Average-o-tron 
Description One-stop-shop for averaging atmospheric time series data, with large array of options. Output file format options include BADC, WMO, EU-ICOS. Averaging options include hourly, daily, weekly, monthly. Various additional columns of statistical information also as options. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Used by a number of UK and international colleagues, including NERC NCAS colleagues.