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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-128
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-128
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: review article 19 Aug 2019

Submitted as: review article | 19 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD).

The Global Methane Budget 2000–2017

Marielle Saunois1, Ann R. Stavert2, Ben Poulter3, Philippe Bousquet1, Joseph G. Canadell2, Robert B. Jackson4, Peter A. Raymond5, Edward J. Dlugokencky6, Sander Houweling7,8, Prabir K. Patra9,10, Philippe Ciais1, Vivek K. Arora11, David Bastviken12, Peter Bergamaschi13, Donald R. Blake14, Gordon Brailsford15, Lori Bruhwiler6, Kimberly M. Carlson16,17, Mark Carrol3, Simona Castaldi18,19,20, Naveen Chandra9, Cyril Crevoisier21, Patrick M. Crill22, Kristofer Covey23, Charles L. Curry24, Giuseppe Etiope25,26, Christian Frankenberg27,28, Nicola Gedney29, Michaela I. Hegglin30, Lena Höglund-Isakson31, Gustaf Hugelius32, Misa Ishizawa33, Akihiko Ito33, Greet Janssens-Maenhout13, Katherine M. Jensen34, Fortunat Joos35, Thomas Kleinen36, Paul B. Krummel37, Ray L. Langenfelds37, Goulven G. Laruelle38, Licheng Liu39, Toshinobu Machida33, Shamil Maksyutov33, Kyle C. McDonald34, Joe McNorton40, Paul A. Miller41, Joe R. Melton42, Isamu Morino33, Jureck Müller35, Fabiola Murgia-Flores43, Vaishali Naik44, Yosuke Niwa33,45, Sergio Noce20, Simon O'Doherty46, Robert J. Parker47, Changhui Peng48, Shushi Peng49, Glen P. Peters50, Catherine Prigent51, Ronald Prinn52, Michel Ramonet1, Pierre Regnier38, William J. Riley53, Judith A. Rosentreter54, Arjo Segers55, Isobel J. Simpson14, Hao Shi56, Steven J. Smith57,58, L. Paul Steele37, Brett F. Thornton22, Hanqin Tian56, Yasunori Tohjima33, Francesco N. Tubiello59, Aki Tsuruta60, Nicolas Viovy1, Apostolos Voulgarakis61, Thomas S. Weber62, Michiel van Weele63, Guido R. van der Werf8, Ray F. Weiss64, Doug Worthy65, Debra Wunch66, Yi Yin1,27, Yukio Yoshida33, Wenxin Zhang41, Zhen Zhang67, Yuanhong Zhao1, Bo Zheng1, Qing Zhu53, Qiuan Zhu68, and Qianlai Zhuang39 Marielle Saunois et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE-IPSL (CEA-CNRS-UVSQ), Université Paris-Saclay 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Aspendale, VIC 3195, and Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
  • 3NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Biospheric Science Laboratory, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
  • 4Department of Earth System Science, Woods Institute for the Environment, and Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2210, USA
  • 5School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
  • 6NOAA ESRL, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
  • 7SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 8Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Earth Sciences, Earth and Climate Cluster, VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 9Research Institute for Global Change, JAMSTEC, 3173-25 Showa-machi, Kanazawa, Yokohama, 236-0001, Japan
  • 10Center for Environmental Remote Sensing, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan
  • 11Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Victoria, BC, V8W 2Y2, Canada
  • 12Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change, Linköping University, 581 83 Linköping, Sweden
  • 13European Commission Joint Research Centre, Via E. Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra (Va), Italy
  • 14Department of Chemistry, University of California Irvine, 570 Rowland Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
  • 15National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, 301 Evans Bay Parade, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 16Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA
  • 17Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai’i, Honolulu, Hawai’i 96822, USA
  • 18Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Biologiche e Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, via Vivaldi 43, 81100 Caserta, Italy
  • 19Department of Landscape Design and Sustainable Ecosystems, RUDN University, Moscow, Russia
  • 20Impacts on Agriculture, Forests, and Ecosystem Services Division, Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici, Via Augusto Imperatore 16, 73100 Lecce, Italy
  • 21Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, LMD-IPSL, Ecole Polytechnique, 91120 Palaiseau, France
  • 22Department of Geological Sciences and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Svante Arrhenius väg 8, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 23Program in Environmental Studies and Sciences, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA
  • 24School of Earth and Ocean Sciences,University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 2Y2
  • 25Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione Roma 2, via V. Murata 605 00143 Rome, Italy
  • 26Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering, Babes Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • 27Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
  • 28Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 29Met Office Hadley Centre, Joint Centre for Hydrometeorological Research, Maclean Building, Wallingford OX10 8BB, UK
  • 30Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6BB, United Kingdom
  • 31Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases Program (AIR), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), 2361 Laxenburg, Austria
  • 32Department of Physical Geography and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 33Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Onogawa 16-2, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan
  • 34Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, City College of New York, City University of New York, New York, NY 10031, USA
  • 35Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Sidlerstr. 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 36Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 37Climate Science Centre, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Aspendale, Victoria 3195, Australia
  • 38Department Geoscience, Environment & Society, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1050-Brussels, Belgium
  • 39Department of Earth, Atmospheric, Planetary Sciences, Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
  • 40Research Department, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, UK
  • 41Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, 223 62, Lund, Sweden
  • 42Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Victoria, BC, V8W 2Y2, Canada
  • 43School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
  • 44NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), 201 Forrestal Rd., Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
  • 45Meteorological Research Institute (MRI), Nagamine 1-1, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0052, Japan
  • 46School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock’s Close, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK
  • 47National Centre for Earth Observation, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
  • 48Department of Biology Sciences, Institute of Environment Science, University of Quebec at Montreal, Montreal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada
  • 49Sino-French Institute for Earth System Science, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 50CICERO Center for International Climate Research, Pb. 1129 Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway
  • 51CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, Lerma, Paris, France
  • 52Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Building 54-1312, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
  • 53Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • 54Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry, School of Environment, Science and Engineering, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
  • 55TNO, dep. of Climate Air & Sustainability, P.O. Box 80015, 3508-TA, Utrecht,The Netherlands
  • 56International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University, 602 Duncan Drive, Auburn, AL 36849, USA
  • 57Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Lab, College Park, MD, USA
  • 58Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
  • 59Statistics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome 00153, Italy
  • 60Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, 00101, Helsinki, Finland
  • 61Department of Physics, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK
  • 62Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA
  • 63KNMI, P.O. Box 201, 3730 AE, De Bilt, the Netherlands
  • 64Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
  • 65Environnement Canada, 4905, rue Dufferin, Toronto, Canada
  • 66Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 67Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, USA
  • 68College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing, 210098, China

Abstract. Understanding and quantifying the global methane (CH4) budget is important for assessing realistic pathways to mitigate climate change. Atmospheric emissions and concentrations of CH4 are continuing to increase, making CH4 the second most important human-influenced greenhouse gas in terms of climate forcing, after carbon dioxide (CO2). Assessing the relative importance of CH4 in comparison to CO2 is complicated by its shorter atmospheric lifetime, stronger warming potential, and atmospheric growth rate variations over the past decade, the causes of which are still debated. Two major difficulties in reducing uncertainties arise from the variety of geographically overlapping CH4 sources and from the destruction of CH4 by short-lived hydroxyl radicals (OH). To address these difficulties, we have established a consortium of multi-disciplinary scientists under the umbrella of the Global Carbon Project to synthesize and stimulate new research aimed at improving and regularly updating the global methane budget. Following Saunois et al. (2016), we present here the second version of the living review paper dedicated to the decadal methane budget, integrating results of top-down studies (atmospheric observations within an atmospheric inverse-modelling framework) and bottom-up estimates (including process-based models for estimating land surface emissions and atmospheric chemistry, inventories of anthropogenic emissions, and data-driven extrapolations).

For the 2008–2017 decade, global methane emissions are estimated by atmospheric inversions (top-down approach) to be 572 Tg CH4 yr−1 (range 538–593, corresponding to the minimum and maximum estimates of the ensemble), of which 357 Tg CH4 yr−1 or ~ 60 % are attributed to anthropogenic sources (range 50–65 %). This total emission is 27 Tg CH4 yr−1 larger than the value estimated for the period 2000–2009 and 24 Tg CH4 yr−1 larger than the one reported in the previous budget for the period 2003–2012 (Saunois et al. 2016). Since 2012, global CH4 emissions have been tracking the carbon intensive scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Gidden et al., 2019). Bottom-up methods suggest larger global emissions (737 Tg CH4 yr−1, range 583–880) than top-down inversion methods, mostly because of larger estimated natural emissions from sources such as natural wetlands, other inland water systems, and geological sources. However the strength of the atmospheric constraints on the top-down budget, suggest that these bottom-up emissions are overestimated. The latitudinal distribution of atmospheric-based emissions indicates a predominance of tropical emissions (~ 65 % of the global budget, < 30° N) compared to mid (~ 30 %, 30° N–60° N) and high northern latitudes (~ 4 %, 60° N–90° N). Our analyses suggest that uncertainties associated with estimates of anthropogenic emissions are smaller than those of natural sources, with top-down inversions yielding larger uncertainties than bottom-up inventories and models. The most important source of uncertainty in the methane budget is attributable to natural emissions, especially those from wetlands and other inland waters. Some global source estimates are smaller compared to the previously published budgets (Saunois et al. 2016; Kirschke et al. 2013), particularly for vegetated wetland emissions that are lower by about 35 Tg CH4 yr−1 due to efforts to partition vegetated wetlands and inland waters. Emissions from geological sources are also found to be smaller by 7 Tg CH4 yr−1, and wild animals by 8 Tg CH4 yr−1. However the overall discrepancy between bottom-up and top-down estimates has been reduced by only 5 % compared to Saunois et al. (2016), due to a higher estimate of freshwater emissions resulting from recent research and the integration of emissions from estuaries. Priorities for improving the methane budget include: i) a global, high-resolution map of water-saturated soils and inundated areas emitting methane based on a robust classification of different types of emitting habitats; ii) further development of process-based models for inland-water emissions; iii) intensification of methane observations at local scales (e.g., FLUXNET-CH4 measurements and urban monitoring to constrain bottom-up land surface models, and at regional scales (surface networks and satellites) to constrain atmospheric inversions; iv) improvements of transport models and the representation of photochemical sinks in top-down inversions, and v) development of a 3D variational inversion system using isotopic and/or co-emitted species such as ethane.

The data presented here can be downloaded from ICOS (https://doi.org/10.18160/GCP-CH4-2019) and the Global Carbon Project.

Marielle Saunois et al.
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Marielle Saunois et al.
Data sets

Global Methane Bugdet 2000-2017 Saunois, M., Stavert, A., Poulter, B., Bousquet, P., Canadell, J. G., Jackson, R. B., Raymond, P. A., Dlugokencky, E. J., Houweling, S., Patra, P. K., Ciais., P., Arora, V. K., Bastviken, D., Bergamaschi, P., Blake, D. R., Brailsford, G., Bruhwiler, L., Carlson, K. M., Carrol, M., Castaldi, S., Chandra, N., Crevoisier, C., Crill, P. M., Covey, K., Curry, C. L., Etiope, G., Frankenberg, C., Gedney, N., Hegglin, M. I., Höglund-Isaksson, L., Hugelius, G., Ishizawa M., Ito, A., Janssens-Maenhout, G., Jensen, K. M. Joos, F., Kleinen, T., Krummel, P. B., Langenfelds, R. L., Laruelle, G. G, Liu, L., Machida, T., Maksyutov, S., McDonald, K. C., McNorton, J., Miller, P. A., Melton, J. R., Morino, I., Müller, J., Murguia-Flores, F., Naik, V., Niwa, Y., Noce, S., O’Doherty, S., Parker, R. J., Peng, C., Peng, S., Peters, G. P., Prigent, C., Prinn, R., Ramonet, M., Regnier, P., Riley, W. J., Rosentreter, J. A., Segers, A., Simpson, I. J., Shi, H., Smith, S. J, Steele, P. L., Thornton, B. F., Tian, H., Tohjima, Y., Tubiello, F. N., Tsuruta, A., Viovy, N., Voulgarakis, A., Weber, T. S., van Weele, M., van der Werf, G. R., Weiss, R., Worthy, D., Wunch, D., Yin, Y., Yoshida, Y., ZhangW., Zhang, Z., Zhao, Y., Zheng, B., Zhu, Q., Zhu, Q., and Zhuang, Q. https://doi.org/10.18160/GCP-CH4-2019

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Short summary
Understanding and quantifying the global methane (CH4) budget is important for assessing realistic pathways to mitigate climate change. We have established a consortium of multi-disciplinary scientists under the umbrella of the Global Carbon Project to synthesize and stimulate new research aimed at improving and regularly updating the global methane budget. This is the second version of the review dedicated to the decadal methane budget, integrating results of top-down and bottom-up estimates.
Understanding and quantifying the global methane (CH4) budget is important for assessing...
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