Implication of strongly increased atmospheric methane concentrations for chemistry-climate connections

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Methane (CH4) is the second-most important directly emitted greenhouse gas, the atmospheric concentration of which is influenced by human activities. In this study, numerical simulations with the chemistry-climate model (CCM) EMAC are performed, aiming to assess possible consequences of significantly enhanced CH4 concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere for the climate. We analyse experiments with 2×CH4 and 5×CH4 presentday (2010) mixing ratio and its quasi-instantaneous chemical impact on the atmosphere. The massive increase in CH4 strongly influences the tropospheric chemistry by reducing the OH abundance and thereby extending the CH4 lifetime as well as the residence time of other chemical substances. The region above the tropopause is impacted by a substantial rise in stratospheric water vapour (SWV). The stratospheric ozone (O3) column increases overall, but SWV-induced stratospheric cooling also leads to a enhanced ozone depletion in the Antarctic lower stratosphere. Regional patterns of ozone change are affected by modification of stratospheric dynamics, i.e. increased tropical upwelling and stronger meridional transport towards the polar regions. We calculate the net radiative impact (RI) of the 2 × CH4 experiment to be 0.69 W m-2, and for the 5 × CH4 experiment to be 1.79 W m-2. A substantial part of the RH is contributed by chemically induced O3 and SWV changes, in line with previous radiative forcing estimates. To our knowledge this is the first numerical study using a CCM with respect to 2- and 5-fold CH4 concentrations and it is therefore an overdue analysis as it emphasizes the impact of possible strong future CH4 emissions on atmospheric chemistry and its feedback on climate.




Winterstein, F., Tanalski, F., Jöckel, P., Dameris, M., & Ponater, M. (2019). Implication of strongly increased atmospheric methane concentrations for chemistry-climate connections. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19(10), 7151–7163.

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