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Lead AuthorsAndrew R. Jacobson, University of Colorado, Boulder, and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory; John B. Miller, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

Contributing AuthorsAshley Ballantyne, University of Montana; Sourish Basu, University of Colorado, Boulder, and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory; Lori Bruhwiler, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory; Abhishek Chatterjee, Universities Space Research Association and NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office; Scott Denning, Colorado State University; Lesley Ott, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Acknowledgments Richard Birdsey (Science Lead), Woods Hole Research Center; Nathaniel A. Brunsell (Review Editor), Univer-sity of Kansas; James H. Butler (Federal Liasion), NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

Recommended Citation for ChapterJacobson, A. R., J. B. Miller, A. Ballantyne, S. Basu, L. Bruhwiler, A. Chatterjee, S. Denning, and L. Ott, 2018: Chapter 8: Observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. In Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2): A Sustained Assessment Report [Cavallaro, N., G. Shrestha, R. Birdsey, M. A. Mayes, R. G. Najjar, S. C. Reed, P. Romero-Lankao, and Z. Zhu (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 337-364, https://doi.org/10.7930/SOCCR2.2018.Ch8.

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KEY FINDINGS1. Global concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have increased almost linearly since

the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (CCSP 2007; see Figure 8.1, p. 339). Over the period 2004 to 2013, global growth rates estimated from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine boundary layer network average 2.0 ± 0.1 parts per million (ppm) per year for CO2 and 3.8 ± 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) per year for CH4. Global mean CO2 abundance as of 2013 was 395 ppm (com-pared to preindustrial levels of about 280 ppm), and CH4 stands at more than 1,810 ppb (compared to preindustrial levels of about 720 ppb) (very high confidence).

2. Inverse model analyses of atmospheric CO2 data suggest substantial interannual variability in net carbon uptake over North America. Over the period 2004 to 2013, North American fossil fuel emis-sions from inventories average 1,774 ± 24 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year, partially offset by the land carbon sink of 699 ± 82 Tg C per year. Additionally, inversion models suggest a trend toward an increasing sink during the period 2004 to 2013. These results contrast with the U.S. land sink esti-mates reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which are smaller and show very little trend or interannual variability.

3. During most of the study period covered by the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (2004 to 2012), inverse model analyses of atmospheric CH4 data show minimal interannual variability in emissions and no robust evidence of trends in either temperate or boreal regions. The absence of a trend in North American CH4 emissions contrasts starkly with global emissions, which show significant growth since 2007. Methane emissions for North America over the period 2004 to 2009 estimated from six inverse models average 66 ± 2 Tg CH4 per year. Over the same period, CH4 emissions reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency equate to a climate impact of 13% of CO2 emissions, given a 100-year time horizon.

Note: Confidence levels are provided as appropriate for quantitative, but not qualitative, Key Findings and statements.

8.1 Introduction Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are the primary contributors to anthropo-genic radiative forcing. Atmospheric concentration measurements of these two species provide funda-mental constraints on sources and sinks, quanti-ties that need to be monitored and understood in order to guide societal responses to climate change. These atmospheric observations also have provided critical insights into the global carbon cycle and carbon stocks and flows among major reservoirs on land and in the ocean. This chapter discusses atmospheric CO2 and CH4 measurements and their use in inverse modeling.

After decades of steady growth in anthropogenic carbon emissions associated with fossil fuel con-sumption, global emissions began to stabilize in

2014 and 2015 (BP 2016). Global emissions nearly doubled from 5,000 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year in 1980 to around 10,000 Tg C per year in 2015. In North America, emissions recently have been decreasing: in Canada from 151 to 141 Tg C per year between 2004 to 2013, and in the United States from 1,570 to 1,407 Tg C per year over the same time period (Boden et al., 2017). Neverthe-less, the global atmospheric CO2 concentration has passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone (a part per million represents the mole fraction of CO2 in dry air and is equivalently expressed as μmol per mol). Given the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2, this global burden will continue to rise as long as net emissions remain positive.

The global atmospheric growth rate of CO2 has averaged around half the rate of CO2 input from fossil fuel combustion over the last 50 years, rising

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from less than 1 ppm per year in the early 1960s to around 2.5 ppm per year between 2010 and 2015 (see Figure 8.1, this page; Ballantyne et al., 2015). Although the growth rate varies substantially from year to year, mainly in response to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (Bacastow 1976; Sarmiento et al., 2010), the trend in net CO2 absorption by the terrestrial biosphere and the ocean has increased from around 2,000 Tg C per year in 1960 to nearly

5,000 Tg C per year in 2015 (see Figure 8.1, this page; Ballantyne et al., 2015). Although the total sink is well constrained, now limited mainly by the ~5% to 10% uncertainty on global fossil fuel emissions, its partitioning between land and ocean and on land betweencontinents is still uncertain. Accordingly, there is no consensus on the fraction of the global sink in North America, although almost all inventory, biospheric model, and atmospheric studies show it to be a sink (King et al., 2015).

The global abundance of CH4 grew significantly from 1984 to 1996, but between 1997 and 2006 there was no significant change in global burden (see Figure 8.1, this page). This quasi-asymptotic behavior can be explained as an approach to steady-state concentrations (Dlugokencky et al., 1998). The balance between surface sources and atmospheric chemical loss, which is mainly due to oxidation by hydroxyl radicals, can be explained by constant emis-sions and a constant atmospheric CH4 lifetime. For the emissions calculations reported in this chapter, a value of 9.1 years was used for this lifetime (Montzka et al., 2011). Indeed, global net emissions exhibited variability but no significant trend between 1984 and 2006 (Dlugokencky et al., 2011; see Figure 8.1, this page). After 2007, however, global CH4 abundance began to rise rapidly (e.g., Dlugokencky et al., 2009; Nisbet et al., 2016), implying an increase in global emissions from 541 ± 8 Tg CH4 per year (1999 to 2006) to 569 ± 12 Tg CH4 per year (2008 to 2015). Emissions in 2014 and 2015 are particularly large, with a mean of 587 ± 3 Tg CH4 per year. Analysis of trends in the 13C:12C content of CH4 (δ13C) indicates that, at global scales, the rise since 2007 resulted predominantly from changes in microbial emissions (e.g., wetlands, livestock, and agriculture) and not fossil fuel–related emissions (Schaefer et al., 2016; Schwietzke et al., 2016). Moreover, because the recent CH4 trend displays no significant meridi-onal gradient, much of this new emissions increment likely originated in the tropics (Nisbet et al., 2016) and not in the northern midlatitudes.

Global total emissions of CO2 and CH4 are well con-strained by available atmospheric measurements;

Figure 8.1. Global Monthly Mean Concentrations of Methane (CH4; red line) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2; blue line) and Global Annual Emissions of CH4 (red bars) and Nonfossil Fuel Annual Emissions of CO2 (blue bars). Global CH4 and CO2 concentra-tions (in parts per billion [ppb] and parts per million [ppm], respectively) are from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Boundary Layer product. Methane emissions were generated from annu-al growth rates of marine boundary layer CH4, assuming a CH4 lifetime of 9.1 years. Carbon dioxide emissions were generated from annual growth rates of marine boundary layer CO2, converted to emissions using a factor of 2,128 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year per ppm and removing anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions. From 1980 to 2016, these global fossil fuel emissions grew steadily from about 5,000 Tg C per year to about 9,200 Tg C per year (Boden et al., 2017). Dotted vertical lines in 2007 and 2016 represent approximate reference times for publication of the first and second State of the Carbon Cycle reports.

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however, using these measurements to attribute to sources and sinks (e.g., fossil emissions versus terres-trial biosphere uptake) or partitioning between land and ocean regions remains difficult. In fact, even at smaller scales (i.e., continental regions as large as North America), substantial uncertainty remains about net contributions by terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The ability to use CO2 and CH4 time and space gradients to constrain North American sources and sinks is limited by current knowledge of atmospheric mixing and by the time and space density of calibrated observations (see Section 8.6, p. 349).

8.2 Historical Context From the late 1950s through mid-1990s, measure-ments of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations were mostly targeted at understanding variations in “background” marine air, remote from the complex signals found over continents. Motivated largely by the finding of Tans et al. (1990) that Northern Hemisphere extratropical land regions were very likely a significant CO2 sink, new attention was placed on understanding the role played by ter-restrial ecosystems. New measurement sites were established on land, with an emphasis on platforms extending well into the daytime planetary boundary layer or higher, in an attempt to capture signals of regional (approximately 1,000 km) surface exchange (Gloor et al., 2001). This effort included observa-tions on towers extending far above the ecosystem canopy (typically >300 m above ground level) and from light aircraft flying well into the free tropo-sphere (typically >6 km above sea level).

The availability of calibrated, comparable observa-tions of atmospheric CO2 mole fractions on a com-mon scale has made it possible to estimate surface exchange via inversion of atmospheric transport. Studies including Enting and Mansbridge (1991), Fan et al. (1998), and the ensuing Atmospheric Tracer Transport Model Intercomparison Project (TransCom) model intercomparisons (e.g., Baker et al., 2006; Gurney et al., 2002) reported widely ranging values of mean sinks for continental-scale

land regions. These results demonstrated that, in the face of highly variable surface fluxes, uncertainties and biases in atmospheric transport models (e.g., Stephens et al., 2007), coupled with the sparseness of available observations, render the estimation of mean surface fluxes strongly underconstrained. In the context of a common estimation method-ology, interannual variability in surface fluxes can be strikingly coherent between inversion models (Baker etal., 2006; Peylin et al., 2013), suggesting that standing biases in transport models may drive differences in the mean flux estimated by global inverse models.

At the time of the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR1; CCSP 2007), there was agree-ment within large uncertainty bounds between “bottom-up” estimates from terrestrial biomass inventories and “top-down” atmospheric studies (Pacala etal., 2001; see Ch. 2 and Ch. 3 in SOCCR1) on the size of the terrestrial CO2 sink in North America. Atmospheric inverse modeling was dis-cussed in SOCCR1, but the final fluxes reported for North America excluded estimates from those techniques. These estimates were brought together for the first time at the continental scale for the North American Carbon Program (NACP) interim regional synthesis project (Hayes et al., 2012; Huntzinger et al., 2012).

8.3 Current Understanding of Carbon Fluxes and StocksThe global average atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2015 of about 401 ppm (see Figure 8.1, p. 339) is roughly 20 ppm (5%) higher than in 2007. The anthropogenic excess of CO2—the concentration in the atmosphere above the preindustrial level of about 280 ppm—has grown by 20% in just the 8years since 2007. The 2015 global average concentration of CH4 was about 1,833 parts per billion (ppb), which is 3% higher than in 2007 (a 5% increase in the anthropogenic excess).

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8.3.1 Advances in Atmospheric Measurements and PlatformsSurface NetworksThe observation network for atmospheric CO2 and CH4 has grown dramatically since SOCCR1 (see Figure 8.2, this page). Networks are now run by 1) governmental institutions such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra-tion (NOAA), Environment and Climate Change Canada, U.S. Department of Energy, and Califor-nia Air Resources Board; 2) research institutions including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and National Ecological Obser-vatory Network (NEON); 3) universities such as Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The Pennsyl-vania State University, Oregon State University, and Red Universitaria de Observatorios Atmosfericos in Mexico; and 4)corporations (e.g., Earth Net-works). Platforms and measurement techniques for observing greenhouse gas (GHG) distributions also have grown and become more diverse. In 2005, the North American CO2 and CH4 surface net-work mainly consisted of weekly surface flask–air

sampling at a handful of sites and continuous observations at several observatories and three tall towers (see Figure 8.2, this page). Sustained records are now available from many more towers, especially those of intermediate (~ 100 m) height. As the den-sity of the North American GHG measurement net-work has grown, the emissions sensitivity of obser-vations has moved from hemispheric scales (using background marine boundary layer observations), to regional scales (using tower and aircraft observa-tions), and, more recently, to local scales from urban networks and oil and gas measurement campaigns. These new insitu measurements of CO2 and CH4 (see Figure 8.2, this page) have been enabled by better availability of higher-precision, stable laser spectroscopic analyzers that require less-frequent calibration, although traceability to a common CO2 reference scale is critical for this collection of networks to be unified. Currently, about 90% of the CO2 network sites also report CH4 measurements.

Remote Sensing New remote-sensing approaches have emerged such as the international Total Carbon Column

Figure 8.2. Growth of the North American Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Monitoring Network from (a) 2005 to (b) 2015. Many National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft sites were terminated after 2005. Unlike “surface” sites, “tower” sites generally have inlets 100 m to 400 m above the surface and sometimes sample air above the planetary boundary layer. About 90% of both tower and surface sites also report methane measurements.

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Observing Network (TCCON), which nowhas six sites in North America among about 20 world-wide. TCCON measurements are made using high-resolution solar-tracking Fourier transform spectrometers (FTSs; Wunch et al., 2011), which are sensitive to the total CO2 content of the atmospheric column, can provide constraints on large-scale carbon fluxes (Chevallier et al., 2011; Keppel-Aleks et al., 2012), and also help identify biases in satellite-based remote sensors (e.g., Wunch et al., 2016). Since SOCCR1, first-generation CO2- and CH4-dedicated near-infrared space-based spec-trometers have been deployed aboard the Green-house Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2; National Aeronau-tics and Space Administration [NASA]) satellites. Numerous carbon cycle data assimilation systems are attempting to assimilate these CH4 (GOSAT) and CO2 (GOSAT and OCO-2) column averages to derive surface fluxes. These efforts are challenged by small but spatially and temporally coherent biases in the data (Basu et al., 2013; Feng et al., 2016; Lindqvist et al., 2015). Estimating emissions anomalies (as opposed to absolute emissions), such as carbon flux variability driven by climate events, has proved to be more successful (Basu et al., 2014; Guerlet et al., 2013; Reuter et al., 2014; Turner et al., 2017). Assimilating column-average GHG data from both ground- and space-based instruments into carbon cycle models is still a rather new activity that requires modifications in traditional atmo-spheric inverse models. They need to be modified to handle a much larger data volume, extract infor-mation from full-column averages, and assimilate retrievals contaminated by coherent biases, which can masquerade as atmospheric gradients arising from surface exchange.

Another remote-sensing approach for CO2 uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR), which has been deployed at surface sites to measure the mean CO2 along horizontal paths (Gibert et al., 2008, 2011) and aboard aircraft to measure partial-column integrals (Dobler et al., 2013). Space-based LIDAR total column CO2 and CH4 measurements are under

development (Ehret et al., 2008), and a CH4 system will be deployed on the MERLIN satellite sensor. LIDAR instruments have narrow beams and thus can often obtain data in partly cloudy regions that confound passive sensors. Because they are active, LIDAR instruments can obtain data in the absence of sunlight (at high latitudes or at night). Despite this appealing feature, LIDAR instruments are not yet broadly distributed for atmospheric research.

Vertical In SituCalibrated CO2 and CH4 total column values can be measured using in situ approaches. The AirCore is a thin steel tube that samples an air profile, typically during a balloon flight (Karion et al., 2010). Pro-files (and thus column integrals) of CO2 and CH4 (Karion et al., 2010) extend to altitudes that allow sampling of nearly 99% of the atmospheric column of air. In addition to defining the vertical structure of CO2 and CH4 in both the troposphere and strato-sphere, these data provide calibrated total columns that can be directly compared to remotely sensed soundings from space (e.g., OCO-2 and GOSAT) and the ground (TCCON). Time series of AirCore measurements are being established at Sodankylä, Finland; Orleans, France; Lamont, Oklahoma;and Boulder, Colorado. While not sampling the total column, in situ measurements taken aboard light air-craft flying between the surface and 6 to 8km above sea level also are ongoing. These regular (biweekly to monthly) measurements capturethe seasonal and interannual distribution of CO2,CH4, and other GHGs throughout North America (Sweeney et al., 2015; see Figure 8.2, p. 341). Although the number of air samples collected has not signifi-cantly increased since 2007, the number of gases measured has increased from eight to more than 50, including gases like carbonyl sulfide (COS) and the 14C:Cratio of CO2 (Δ14CO2) that are tracers for biogenic and fossil fuel emissions.

Other SpeciesCarbon monoxide (CO) retrievals from theMea-surements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) and Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) satellite instruments have

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been used to constrain biomass burning GHG emissions and help separate intact ecosystem carbon uptake from biomass burning emissions (e.g., van der Laan-Luijkx et al., 2015). Although CO retrievals from these platforms can be biased by 10% or more (De Wachter et al., 2012; Deeter et al., 2016; George et al., 2009), robust signals can still be gleaned since the variation in CO from large biomass burning events can be up to 500% of the background. While not a GHG measure-ment, solar-induced fluorescence (SIF), a direct by-product of photosynthesis, can be measured from space and is emerging as an important marker of terrestrial gross primary production (Frankenberg et al., 2011; Joiner et al., 2011) and complement to remotely sensed CO2. Direct estimation of gross primary production from SIF retrievals remains an area of active research.

Process TracersConcentrations and isotopic ratios of carbon cycle process tracers such as COS, CO, Δ14CO2, haloge-nated species, 13CO2, 13CH4, propane, and ethane are now being regularly analyzed in North Ameri-can air and as part of the NOAA tower and aircraft networks and targeted regional and local measure-ment campaigns. These include programs such as the Mid-Continent Intensive (MCI; NACP) campaign, Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE; NASA), Atmospheric Carbon and Trans-fer-America (ACT-America) program (NASA), India-napolis Flux Experiment (INFLUX), and Los Angeles megacities effort (see Section 8.3.2, this page). These process tracers allow for constraints on carbon cycle processes such as photosynthetic CO2 fixation, fossil fuel emissions, and transport model fidelity.

8.3.2 Atmosphere-Based Fluxes from Local to Continental ScalesShort-Term and Regional to Local EmissionsSince SOCCR1 (CCSP 2007), studies of the carbon cycle have expanded to include regional campaigns designed to understand and quantify ecosystem and anthropogenic sources and sinks in particular regions and seasons. The NACP MCI campaign

intensively sampled the atmosphere above the Midwest agricultural region during 2007 and 2008 and compared sources and sinks derived from atmospheric CO2 data to those based on bottom-up inventories. The results showed a high degree of convergence between surface fluxes inferred from three atmospheric inversions and bottom-up inventories (Ogle et al., 2015; Schuh et al., 2013). CARVE studied boreal and Arctic ecosystem carbon cycling in Alaska using aircraft and tower CO2 and CH4 measurements between 2012 and 2015 (e.g., Chang et al., 2014). One significant finding was that an ensemble of process-based wetland emission models (Melton et al., 2013) systematically underes-timated atmospherically constrained CH4 emissions from tundra ecosystems on Alaska’s North Slope (Miller et al., 2016). Recently launched regional studies also should provide new insights into North American carbon cycling. The ACT-America (2015 to 2019) program is designed to explore the struc-ture of GHG distributions within synoptic weather systems and reduce atmospheric transport error in inverse flux estimates using a variety of aircraft observations. The new NASA CARbon Atmo-spheric Flux Experiment (CARAFE) airborne pay-load, which is designed for validation of regional car-bon flux estimates, was recently deployed to collect airborne eddy covariance measurements for CO2 and CH4 (Wolfe et al., 2015). Other studies such as NASA’s Deriving Information on Surface Condi-tions from Column and Vertically Resolved Obser-vations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) and Arctic Research of the Composition of the Tro-posphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS), as well as the Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS), have focused primarily on reactive gas compounds and air quality research but also have measured and inter-preted CO2 and CH4 data (e.g., Brioude et al., 2012; Townsend-Small et al., 2016; Vay et al., 2011). At much larger scales, the HIAPER (High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmen-tal Research) Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO; 2009 to 2011) and the Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom; 2016 to 2018) projects have mea-sured atmospheric trace gas species, including CO2

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and CH4, along north-south transects in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These measurements are not significantly sensitive to North American emissions, but they are expected to help constrain large-scale carbon fluxes and atmospheric transport and, by extension, improve understanding of the North American carbon balance.

Many studies at more local scales have been designed to provide constraints on urban CH4 and CO2 emissions. A large global trend in urban migration is making cities loci of both emissions and their mitigation, thus driving interest in atmo-spheric measurement approaches to inform deci-sion making (e.g., Duren and Miller 2012). There have been projects outside of North America (e.g., Bréon et al., 2015; Levin et al., 2011); some North American urban carbon balance studies include those in Indianapolis (INFLUX; Davis et al., 2017), Los Angeles (Feng et al., 2016; Wong et al., 2015; Wunch et al., 2009), Salt Lake City (McKain et al., 2012), and Boston (McKain et al., 2015). In general, these studies have deployed small networks of GHG sensors in and around cities and used the observed gradients, in conjunction with high-resolution atmo-spheric transport models and bottom-up invento-ries, to determine urban CH4 and net CO2 emis-sions (fossil and biogenic). Comparisons between atmospherically derived and bottom-up CO2 emissions show varying degrees of agreement, even in the same city. In Indianapolis, a CO2 flux calcula-tion using tower observations and a high-resolution (1-km) atmospheric inversion system (Lauvaux et al., 2016) yielded emissions about 20% larger than either the Hestia Project (Gurney et al., 2012; Arizona State University) or Open-source Data Inventory for Anthropogenic CO2 (ODIAC; Oda and Maksyutov 2011) inventory products, while aircraft mass-balance fluxes (Heimburger et al., 2017) were about 20% lower than the inventories. Indianapolis airborne mass balance CH4 emissions were about 30% higher than a custom-made urban inventory, and the tower-based inversion suggested CH4 emissions twice as large as the aircraft mass balance estimate. In Salt Lake City, another atmo-spheric inversion approach using high-resolution

(1.3-km) meteorology also showed a high level of correspondence with the Vulcan Project. The California Research at the Nexus of Air Quality and Climate Change (CalNex) mission, which sampled CO2 above Los Angeles, derived emissions 20% to 30% higher than ODIAC and Vulcan (Brioude et al., 2013; Gurney et al., 2012). In the Los Angeles megacities experiment and INFLUX, additional biogenic and anthropogenic process tracers like CO, Δ14CO2, and numerous hydro- and halocarbons also have been measured (Newman et al., 2016; Turnbull etal., 2015). These data could enable partitioning the net CO2 signals into anthropogenic and biogenic components.

Local studies also have been undertaken in and around oil and gas extraction fields. Between 2005 and 2016, U.S. natural gas extraction increased by over 38% (U.S. Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9010us2m.htm). The fraction of CH4 that leaks during extraction and dis-tribution is highly uncertain and is driving research on both bottom-up and top-down methods. Alvarez et al. (2012) estimated that if this CH4 leak rate is greater than about 3%, the climate impact of natural gas combustion could equal or exceed that of coal on a per-unit energy basis. Some recent studies of CH4 emissions from oil and gas production (e.g., Brandt et al., 2014) have found higher emissions compared to estimates from past U.S. Environmen-tal Protection Agency (EPA) inventories. Field stud-ies also have shown considerable variation among regions. For example, Karion et al. (2013) found that emissions from the Uintah Basin in Utah were about 9% of production, while Peischl et al. (2015) found leak rates well under 3% of production for the Haynesville, Fayetteville, and Marcellus shale regions. Based on a variety of studies at scales rang-ing from individual pieces of equipment to regional scales, Brandt et al. (2014) concluded that leakage rates are unlikely to be large enough to make the climate impact of natural gas as large as that of coal.

The answer to the question of why field studies suggest higher emissions than official inventories is likely related to the existence of a small number

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of “super emitters” that are difficult to capture in inventory-based approaches, but whose atmo-spheric signatures are often seen in measurements (Brandt et al., 2014; Schwietzke et al., 2017; Kort et al., 2014). For example, Zavala-Araiza et al. (2015) found that half of CH4 emissions from the Barnett Shale region were due to just 2% of oil and gas facilities, and the study achieved closure within error bounds between atmospheric methods and an inventory product derived from local emissions measurements. Although small in area and dura-tion, these measurement campaigns have provided policy-relevant information using atmospheric CH4 concentration data.

Interannual and Continental EmissionsInverse models such as CarbonTracker have been continuously improved and upgraded to exploit the improved density of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 observations (Bruhwiler et al., 2014). Global inver-sions with regularly updated flux estimates include CarbonTracker (Peters et al., 2007; carbontracker.noaa.gov), the European Union’s Copernicus Atmo-spheric Monitoring Service (CAMS; atmosphere.copernicus.eu; formerly MACC), Max Planck Insti-tute Jena CarboScope project (Rödenbeck etal., 2003; www.bgc-jena.mpg.de/CarboScope), and CarbonTracker-Europe from Wageningen University (Peters et al., 2010; www.carbontracker.eu). These products constitute the ensemble of inverse models used in this chapter to estimate North American CO2 fluxes.

Mean annual CO2 fluxes over North America from this ensemble are shown in Figure 8.3, this page, and listed in Table 8.1, p. 346. These inverse model flux estimates show some level of agreement about mean fluxes and patterns of interannual variability. However, they also manifest notable differences. These differences remain one of the most import-ant indicators of the overall uncertainty in inverse model fluxes. The uncertainty in fluxes derived from inverse models has proven to be a difficult quantity to estimate directly, since those models depend on results from upstream analyses with complicated, unknown uncertainties. For instance,

some of the overall difference in inverse model fluxes can be attributed to differing atmospheric transport among the models, which assume that the winds and diffusive mixing of the transport model are unbiased and subject only to random error. Another element of overall uncertainty comes from the structure of the flux estimation scheme in each inverse model. This structure includes the choice of prior emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, terrestrial biosphere, and the ocean used in the model. The interpretation of results from inverse models is further complicated by the fact that these

Figure 8.3. Inverse Model Estimates of Annual Emis-sions of (a) Methane (CH4) and (b) Nonfossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from 2000 to 2014. Estimates are given in teragrams (Tg) for North America (green), boreal North America (blue), and temperate North Amer-ica (beige) based on the across-model mean of inverse models. Error bands represent one-sigma across-model spread taken as a proxy for model uncertainty. Meth-ane emissions data are from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) inverse model collection of Saunois et al. (2016), with the number of models contributing to each annual mean shown in black. Carbon dioxide emissions are the across-model mean of the four inverse models collected for this report. Negative emissions represent a sink.



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models retrieve spatiotemporal patterns of CO2 and CH4 fluxes that do not necessarily correspond with patterns expected from differing theories about eco-system carbon exchange; therefore, they do not map directly onto improvements in process knowledge. Despite these limitations, inverse model results are important because their net carbon flux estimates are by construction consistent with atmospheric data constraints. Ensembles of inverse models using different transport, structure, data inputs, and priors are particularly useful since they mitigate some of these limitations.

Previous comparisons of inverse models such as Baker et al. (2006) and Peylin et al. (2013) indi-cated that, while each inversion manifests a different long-term mean flux estimate, the patterns of inter-annual variability tend to have better agreement. There is some indication of interannual variation coherence in the present collection of models, but with some significant disagreement, mainly from the Jena CarboScope model. Averaging across the

inversions, the land biosphere sink in North Amer-ica, including fire emissions, averaged over 2004 to 2013 is 699 ± 82 Tg C per year (mean ± two standard errors of the mean of the interannual and intermodel variability). This sink offsets about 39% of the fossil fuel emissions of 1,774 ± 24 Tg C per year for the same geographic area, although 98% of these anthropogenic emissions come from just the temperate North American region. Disagreement remains among these inversions about the average size of the North American sink, but they all esti-mate significant interannual variability in that sink. Over the temperate North American region, these inverse models estimate interannual variability (one sigma) of between 163 and 277 Tg C per year, equiv-alent to 45% to 83% of each model’s mean flux.

The level of interannual variability from inverse models stands in stark contrast to the annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, prepared by the U.S. EPA. EPA’s U.S. GHG inventory estimates land use, land-use change, and

Table 8.1. Estimates of Annual, North American, Land Biosphere Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fluxes (Including Fire) Derived from Atmospheric CO2 Measurements Using Inverse Models and the U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency (EPA) Inventory over the Period 2004 to 2013

CT2015 CAMSa CTE2015 CarboScopeb Inverse Models

EPAFossil Fuel Emissions

Boreal North America

–160 ± 77 –356 ± 61 –302 ± 50 –407 ± 64 –306 ± 43 30 ± 1

Temperate North America

–352 ± 111 –602 ± 95 –252 ± 126 –365 ± 109 –393 ± 67 –202 ± 5c 1744 ± 37

North America

–511 ± 106 –959 ± 117 –555 ± 147 –773 ± 107 –699 ± 82 1774 ± 24

Emissions in teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year are listed for the Atmospheric Tracer Transport Model Intercomparison Project’s (TransCom) temperate and boreal North American regions (Gurney et al., 2002). The “inverse models” column averages across the four inverse models (CarbonTracker [CT], Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service [CAMS], CarbonTracker-Europe [CTE], and CarboScope) and represents the best estimate from this ensemble. Fossil fuel emissions are derived from Boden et al. (2017). Values reported are the 2004 to 2013 mean plus or minus a measure of interannual and across-model variability (twice the standard error of the mean of annual emissions). Negative emissions represent a sink.

Notesa) Version v15r4, atmosphere.copernicus.eu.b) Version v3.8.c) U.S. EPA (2017) estimates correspond to “managed lands” in the United States, which largely corresponds to the TransCom

temperate North American region.

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forestry (LULUCF) sector emissions on managed lands. Managed lands represent about 95% of total U.S. land cover and more than 99% of the contermi-nous United States, which corresponds well to the net biosphere fluxes estimated by inversion mod-els for temperate North America. EPA’s LULUCF CO2 sink estimate has a 2004 to 2013 mean of 202 ± 5 TgC per year (U.S. EPA 2017; mean plus or minus two standard errors of the mean). The small interannual variability in the EPA inventory of just 5 Tg C per year stands in contrast to all the inverse models. This low apparent variability may arise from the historical 5- to 14-year frequency at which U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots have been resampled. Comparing the interannual variability of inventories and inversions is inherently difficult due to the mismatch in their temporal sensitivities.

Various estimates of North American surface CO2 emissions were collected as part of the recent NACP regional interim synthesis (Hayes et al., 2012; Huntzinger et al., 2012) and REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes (RECCAP) effort (Canadell et al., 2011; King et al., 2015). The RECCAP North America study included a suite of inverse models collected by Peylin et al. (2013) with a 2000 to 2009 mean CO2 sink of 890 ± 400 Tg C per year (mean and one sigma standard deviation), implying a larger sink than either inventory (270 Tg C per year) or terrestrial biosphere model (359 ± 111 Tg C per year) estimates (King et al., 2015). The current suite of inverse models collected for this report (see Table 8.1, p. 346) suggests North Ameri-can biosphere emissions of 699 ± 82 Tg C per year averaged over 2000 to 2014. The models collected for this chapter also supplied results from their earlier versions to the RECCAP ensemble of Peylin et al. (2013). That report showed a wide range of North American flux estimates, but the subset of models used in this chapter all manifested sinks smaller than 500 Tg C per year for North America over the reporting period 2001 to 2004, whereas the other models all estimated greater sinks between about 500 and 1,500 Tg C per year.

The North American sink estimated from the suite of inverse models collected for this report agrees well with previous bottom-up estimates. SOCCR1 (Pacala et al., 2007) reported a sink of 666 ± 250 Tg C per year for 2003. This estimate was derived from bottom-up inventories and models and did not include information from atmospheric inverse mod-els. Hayes et al. (2012) attempted to reconcile net biosphere emissions estimates from inventories, ter-restrial biosphere models, and atmospheric inverse models averaged over 2000 to 2006 for North America. That study found a sink of 511 Tg C per year simulated by terrestrial biosphere models and an inventory-based sink estimate of 327 Tg C per year (with an estimate of additional noninventoried fluxes that brings the total sink estimate to 564 TgC per year). The collection of inverse models used in that study manifested significantly larger sinks (981 Tg C per year) than the current collection. See Ch.2: The North American Carbon Budget, p. 71, for an assessment of the overall agreement of these various estimates of North American surface CO2 exchange with the atmosphere.

The use of regional models of CO2 and CH4 has become more common since SOCCR1. These models have focused, for example, on continental-scale processes (Butler et al., 2010; Gourdjietal.,2012; Schuh et al., 2010) or at the scale of the mid-continent (Lauvaux et al., 2012b; Schuh etal., 2013). Regional model CO2 flux estimates for North America so far have been published for periods of up to 1 year, with multi-year analyses only available from global inversion approaches. One prominent result from regional inverse CO2 studies is the sensitivity of the annual net CO2 flux to defining the inflow of atmospheric CO2 into the study region (Gourdji etal., 2012; Schuh et al., 2010). Lauvaux et al. (2012b) demon-strated that this sensitivity could be minimized with observations at the inflow boundaries. This finding highlights the importance of global-scale measure-ment networks and carbon reanalysis systems for understanding North American carbon fluxes. More recently, CH4 has received more attention with regional inversions for the continent (Kort et al.,

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2008; Miller et al., 2013), California ( Jeong et al., 2013), and Alaska (Chang et al., 2014; Miller et al., 2016). Additional uncertainties in inverse modeling approaches arise from sparse data coverage. When the observational network is not strongly sensitive to particular land regions, inverse modeling systems must make assumptions about spatial and temporal patterns of emissions. As with the issue of boundary inflow, mitigating this sensitivity necessitates build-ing a denser, intercalibrated measurement network.

8.4 Indicators, Trends, and FeedbacksAtmospheric CH4 and CO2 levels continue to increase. In the case of CO2, this increase is unam-biguously a result of anthropogenic emissions, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, with North America accounting for about 20% of global emis-sions. The recent rise in global CH4 concentrations (see Figure 8.1, p. 339), on the other hand, has been attributed primarily to biological, not fossil, processes on the basis of a concomitant decrease in the global mean 13C:12C ratio and the tropical origin of the increase (Nisbet et al., 2016; Schaefer et al., 2016; Schwietzke et al., 2016). Two recent analyses render the causes of recent CH4 growth rate changes less clear. First, studies have pointed out that the tropospheric CH4 sink may not have been constant over recent years as had been assumed (Rigby et al., 2017; Turner et al., 2017). Secondly, Worden et al. (2017) suggest that atmospheric δ13C of CH4 may have decreased because of less biomass burning, thus allowing for an increase in isotopically heavier fossil fuel CH4 sources. Nonetheless, these results mostly pertain to the global mean and do not directly bear on potential trends in North American emissions. Despite the recent increase in oil and gas production due to new extraction technologies, both inventories and atmospheric inversions do not reveal an increase in North American CH4 emissions (Bruhwiler et al., 2014; Miller et al., 2013; U.S. EPA 2016; see Figure8.3, p. 345). Normalizing CH4 and CO2 emissions using a 100-year global warming potential (GWP) indicates that U.S. radiative forcing from CH4 emissions from 2000 to 2013 equates to just

13% of that from CO2. Changes in U.S., Canadian, and Mexican energy systems will affect the atmo-spheric trends of anthropogenic CO2 and CH4, but U.S. GHG emissions currently are dominated by CO2 and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Much less certain than anthropogenic CO2 sources is the balance of biogenic sources (respiration and fire) and sinks (photosynthesis). There is general agreement that the terrestrial biosphere of the United States, and North America as a whole, acts as a CO2 sink (see Figure 8.3, p. 345, and Table 8.1, p. 346; Hayes et al., 2012; King et al., 2015), but there is substantial uncertainty about the location of and reasons for the sinks. There is evidence that their interannual variability is driven largely by climatic factors. For example, Peters et al. (2007) presented evidence for a direct effect of drought on the North American sink. Understanding the spatial and tem-poral variability of sinks is critical, because positive feedbacks between net ecosystem CO2 exchange and climate represent a first-order uncertainty in climate projections (Bodman et al., 2013; Booth et al., 2012; Friedlingstein et al., 2006, 2014; Huntingford et al., 2009; Wenzel et al., 2014; Wieder et al., 2015). At hemispheric and global scales, atmospheric CO2 data have proved to be a powerful constraint on the representation of the carbon cycle (including, to some measure, feedbacks) in climate models (e.g., Cox etal., 2013; Graven et al., 2013; Keppel-Aleks et al., 2013; Randerson et al., 2009). The present generation of global atmospheric inverse models is limited by the accuracy and resolution (generally about 1° × 1°) of meteorological transport, availabil-ity and accuracy of prior flux emissions, uncertainty about the spatial coherence of prior flux errors, and the limited set of observation sites shown in Figure 8.2, p. 341. Together, these limitations mean that, at present, global atmospheric inverse models cannot unambiguously resolve source-sink patterns below the scale of 5 to 10 million km2. A new generation of regional and local models using much higher res-olution meteorology (e.g., approaching the approx-imately 1- to 4-km resolution used by Lauvaux et al. [2016] and McKain et al. [2015]) will be more

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capable of assimilating data from the sites in Figure 8.2, p. 341. Without quantitative knowledge of the spatial structure of flux uncertainties (Cooley et al., 2012; Ogle et al., 2015) and atmospheric transport errors (Díaz Isaac et al., 2014; Lauvaux and Davis 2014), these high-resolution inverse systems will have limited ability to determine the spatial structure of fluxes (Lauvaux et al., 2012a, 2016). Nonetheless, these improved inversion systems should enable bet-ter understanding of the climate-carbon relationship in North America.

8.5 Societal Drivers, Impacts, and Carbon Management In a potential future when carbon emissions have a significant economic cost and international agree-ments to control emissions are in place, verifying claims of emissions mitigation and assessing the efficacy of mitigation strategies will be necessary. In addition to international agreements, 18 states have plans in place to reduce GHG emissions. Bottom-up methods based on economic, agricultural, and forest inventories provide much of the basis for these cal-culations. These methods are susceptible to system-atic errors, including incomplete sectoral coverage, misreporting, and the use of uncertain emissions factors. Top-down methods derive emissions bud-gets consistent with atmospheric concentrations of GHGs, but they also contain systematic errors resulting from imperfect knowledge of atmospheric transport and lack of observations. Although these uncertainties place limits on the accuracy of top-down emissions estimates, atmospheric data still provide strong constraints on GHG emissions from local to global scales (e.g., Levin et al., 2010). As shown by the example of Brandt et al. (2014), natural gas super emitters can be localized from in situ observations even when they have not previ-ously been identified by inventories. As described in this chapter, both existing and new technologies can provide independent and complementary informa-tion and help reconcile emissions estimates from the bottom-up and top-down approaches. From a car-bon management and decision perspective, collect-ing and utilizing information from atmospheric data

could provide additional information in regions and sectors where uncertainties in bottom-up invento-ries are large. Top-down emissions estimates can be produced with low latency and with robust uncer-tainty quantification. Together, these two methods can provide robust observational constraints on emissions at a variety of scales.

8.6 Synthesis, Knowledge Gaps, and Outlook8.6.1 Findings from Atmospheric Inversions and Related AnalysesThe present collection of atmospheric CO2 inver-sions shows no clear trend in the boreal North Amer-ican sink, but it does suggest the possibility of an increasing sink in temperate latitudes. A more robust feature of atmospheric inversions is that they show that the North American CO2 sink is more highly variable and sensitive to drought and temperature stress than bottom-up biosphere models (King et al., 2015; Peters et al., 2007). Inversions also produce a larger mean sink and a deeper annual cycle than terrestrial biosphere models. Significant uncertainty remains about the magnitude of the mean North American carbon sink, in part because models dis-agree about the partitioning of the net sink between northern and tropical land regions. The mechanisms behind the land sink cannot be understood fully without more agreement on its location. Notably, distinguishing between a potentially short-lived sink due to recovery from past land-use practices (mainly a temperate Northern Hemisphere phenomenon) and a longer-term sink due to CO2 fertilization remains elusive. Moreover, the role of carbon-climate feedback processes in North America, both nega-tive (e.g., extended growing seasons and tree-line migration) and positive (e.g., permafrost carbon release and insect outbreaks), is poorly understood at present. Atmospheric measurements can impose significant constraints on these processes (e.g., Sweeney et al., 2015), and continued and expanded measurements, especially in sensitive Arctic and boreal regions, will be critical moving forward.

Inventories suggest that fossil fuel CO2 emissions are stabilizing and even decreasing for certain

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regions and sectors of the global and North Ameri-can economy. This finding is difficult to verify given the ad hoc nature of the GHG observation network, lack of integration among programs, and sparse mea-surements of anthropogenic emissions tracers such as Δ14CO2 and CO.

Individual atmospheric CH4 inversions consistently show no trend and little interannual variability in total CH4 emissions (natural and anthropogenic) for both the temperate (largely the United States) and boreal regions and the continent as a whole (see Figure 8.3, p. 345). These results suggest that North American emissions have not contributed significantly to the global upward trend that started in 2007. Increasing oil and gas production in North America could result in increased CH4 emissions, a result apparently confirmed by Turner et al. (2016) on the basis of comparing inverse model estimates from different time periods. This conclusion has been called into question by Bruhwiler et al. (2017), who argue that robust trend detection is limited by interannual variability, the sparse in situ measure-ment network, and biased satellite CH4 retrievals. Recent increases in atmospheric ethane and propane suggest increased CH4 emissions from fossil fuel production, although there is uncertainty in this conclusion due to poorly quantified emissions ratios (Helmig et al., 2016). As with CO2 though, little reli-able spatial information is available from the current suite of CH4 inverse models. This limitation ham-pers attribution to specific mechanisms including CH4-climate feedbacks, especially in the boreal zone where permafrost degradation plays a key role in changing CH4 and CO2 fluxes (McGuire et al., 2016; see also Ch. 11: Arctic and Boreal Carbon, p. 428).

8.6.2 Future Atmospheric Measurement Challenges and Strategies for North AmericaCompatibility Among NetworksAs the community expands research into new domains and with new measurement strategies, new challenges are emerging. Compatibility of measurements among existing and future networks is a concern, as there is ample history of calibration

difficulties from the decades of in situ measure-ment experience (e.g., Brailsford et al., 2012). This challenge is being addressed by careful attention to calibration and participation in laboratory and field intercomparison activities (Masarie et al., 2011; www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/wmorr/). Much more challenging is linking ground- and space-based remote-sensing measurements to each other and to the calibrated in situ networks. Con-centrations derived from any remote-sensing gas measurement, whether ground- or space-based, cannot be formally calibrated because the mea-surement instrument cannot be “challenged” by a reference sample with a known concentration. Thus, identification and correction of biases remain a significant challenge. With the OCO-2 and GOSAT programs, the primary strategy has been to com-pare the satellite-based retrievals with TCCON retrievals. The TCCON retrievals of column CO2 are themselves remote-sensing products that have been statistically linked to the World Meteorological Organization CO2 calibration scale using aircraft in situ partial column CO2 and CH4 extrapolated to the top of the atmosphere (Wunch et al., 2011). This linkage remains uncertain due to the limited number of in situ profiles used and their limited maximum altitude. A limited number of nearly total column AirCore (Karion et al., 2010) measurements also have been compared with TCCON columns.

Bias correction of satellite retrievals remains chal-lenging due to the limited number of TCCON sta-tions (currently less than 20) and because estimates of the TCCON site-to-site bias of 0.4 ppm (one-sigma; Wunch et al., 2016) are significant for carbon cycle studies. As an example of the importance of small biases, Reuter et al. (2014) demonstrated that a gradient of 0.5 ppm in column CO2 across Europe was associated with a change in flux over that region of about –500 Tg C per year. This increased sink over Europe using a regional model is consistent with the inversion intercomparison of Houweling et al. (2015), who found that assimilating GOSAT column CO2 retrievals in global inversion models caused an increase of about 700 Tg C per year in the European sink, with a compensating increase

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in the northern Africa source of about 900 Tg C per year. These shifts in emissions were associated with degraded agreement with unassimilated insitu observations from both surface observation sites and aircraft campaigns. For comparison, the insitu assimilation models collected for this chap-ter estimate a modest sink of 219 ± 405 Tg C per year in Europe and a negligible source of 13 ± 281 Tg C per year in northern Africa over the 2004 to 2013 period. These uncertainties, which comprise both interannual variability and intermodel differ-ences in the inversions, are relatively large but still appear inconsistent with the GOSAT-driven flux increments reported in Houweling et al. (2015). In the relatively short time that GOSAT and OCO-2 have been collecting data, significant progress has been made in identifying and correcting biases in those datasets. Progress also is needed in under-standing the time and space scales of remote-sensing data least susceptible to bias and how to assimilate these retrievals jointly with in situ data having less bias. Moving forward, more measurements will be key, including expansion of AirCore (Karion et al., 2010) and commercial aircraft observations (Basu et al., 2014) that will enable better assessment and utilization of both ground- and space-based total column CO2 and CH4 remote-sensing data.

Next-Generation MeasurementsAtmospheric measurements will play an import-ant role in addressing these critical questions on the present and future state of both anthropogenic and biogenic components of the North American carbon cycle. The following is a list of potential, yet achievable, atmospheric measurement approaches that could dramatically change the current view of the North American (and global) carbon cycle.

A. Commercial Aircraft CO2 and CH4 Observa-tions. The Comprehensive Observation Net-work for Trace gases by Airliner (CONTRAIL) program has measured GHGs from commercial aircraft for nearly two decades (Matsueda et al., 2008). A similar European effort, In-service Air-craft for a Global Observing System (IAGOS) project (Filges et al., 2015), is not yet fully

operational for GHG measurements. The tech-nology exists for unattended, high-accuracy air-borne CO2 and CH4 measurements (Karion et al., 2013), and deploying instruments aboard 40 domestic U.S. commercial aircraft could result in approximately 500 vertical profiles per day, radically changing CO2 and CH4 data density over North America.

B. Greatly Expanded Δ14CO2 Measurements. Recently, Basu et al. (2016) demonstrated that expanding the U.S. network of Δ14CO2 mea-surements from about 800 per year to 5,000 per year, as recommended by the U.S. National Research Council (Pacala et al., 2010), could allow for atmospherically based determination of U.S. fossil fuel CO2 emissions to within 5%, complementing official U.S. EPA invento-ry-based estimates. In addition to 14CO2, other tracers such as CO, non-methane hydrocarbons, halogenated species, and 14CH4 (for fossil CH4 identification) can serve as powerful constraints on emissions, both in total and by sector.

C. Upcoming Satellite-Based CO2 and CH4 Sensors. These sensors, including GOSAT-2, OCO-3, TanSat (China), Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB; NASA), MER-LIN (France and Germany), TROPOMI (Euro-pean Space Agency), and others (Ciais etal., 2014) likely will enable dramatically increased spatial coverage of total column CO2, CH4, and other gases. For the utility of these data to be maximized, existing challenges associated with aerosols, characterization of the ocean and land surface, clouds, daylight, and, more generally, the linkage to formal gas concentration scales must be overcome. GOSAT and OCO-2, and particularly their planned successors, also will yield information on chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF), which has potential as a marker of time and space patterns of plant photosynthesis.

D. NEON. If built out as planned, NEON (National Science Foundation) will provide calibrated CO2 measurements on towers over a variety of North American biomes that will add

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significantly to the North American CO2 obser-vational dataset.

E. Additional Gas Tracers. As with anthropo-genic ancillary tracers (see B), numerous gases can serve as tracers of terrestrial ecosystem processes. Gross primary production fluxes are closely linked to atmospheric gradients in COS and Δ17O (anomalies in the 18O:17O ratio of CO2; e.g., Campbell et al., 2008; Thiemens et al., 2014). Atmospheric δ13CO2 is sensitive to the impact of regional-scale moisture stress on terrestrial photosynthesis (Ballantyne et al., 2010) and can distinguish C3 and C4 plant productivity. Schwietzke et al. (2016) showed the potential for δ13CH4 observations to dis-tinguish fossil fuel CH4 emissions from other sources. Measurements of the δ18O of CO2 reflect both biospheric processes and changes in the hydrological cycle (Ciais et al., 1997; Flanagan etal., 1997; Miller etal., 1999).

F. Measurements to Improve Atmospheric Transport Simulation. Such measurements are critical for fully extracting the information content of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 data. Bet-ter understanding and parameterizing of atmo-spheric transport are critical. Near-surface GHG

concentrations are a sensitive function of the planetary boundary-layer mixing height, wind speed, and wind direction. Measurements of the vertical wind structure and boundary-layer depth using rawinsonde, LIDAR, and radar, and assimilating these data into atmospheric trans-port models, can improve atmospheric trans-port significantly (Deng et al., 2017). Simulated CO2 transport is sensitive to boundary-layer mixing, convective cloud transport, synoptic weather patterns, and the surface energy bal-ance, all of which can be difficult to simulate with the high accuracy and precision required for atmospheric inversions. Fortunately, decades of weather forecasting research provide a strong foundation for improving the meteorological reanalyses used in atmospheric inversions. Observational programs that merge meteoro-logical measurements with high-density GHG data (e.g., ACT-America) are aimed at advanc-ing this aspect of atmospheric inverse modeling. In addition, measurements of tracers such as water vapor isotopic ratios, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and even 14CO2, where emissions are rel-atively well known (Turnbull etal., 2008), also can constrain simulated transport (Denning et al., 1999; Patra et al., 2011; Peters etal., 2004).

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KEY FINDING 1Global concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have increased almost lin-early since the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (CCSP 2007; see Figure 8.1, p. 339). Over the period 2004 to 2013, global growth rates estimated from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) marine boundary layer network average 2.0 ± 0.1 parts per million (ppm) per year for CO2 and 3.8 ± 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) per year for CH4. Global mean CO2 abundance as of 2013 was 395 ppm (compared to preindustrial levels of about 280 ppm), and CH4 stands at more than 1,810 ppb (compared to preindustrial levels of about 720 ppb); (very high confidence).

Description of evidence base Global mean atmospheric growth rates and abundances of CO2 and CH4 are derived from pub-licly available tables on NOAA websites: 1) www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html and 2) www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/.

Major uncertainties The averages were calculated from the regularly updated marine boundary layer sites of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. These averages are not associated with any recent literature. The methodology used to construct the global “surfaces” from which the global aver-ages are computed is described in Masarie and Tans (1995). The uncertainties originate primar-ily from the incomplete sampling of the marine boundary layer by the NOAA network and the uncertainty associated with smoothing the raw data prior to creating the global surface. Measure-ment uncertainty of CO2 and CH4 is a minor component. Uncertainty calculations are described in detail at: www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/mbl/mbl.html. While the atmospheric CO2 growth rate is relatively stable, there is strong decadal and interannual variability of CH4 emissions, mak-ing computation of an average inherently sensitive to the choice of time period. For instance, the CH4 growth rate averaged over 1997 to 2006 was 2.8 ppb per year, whereas over 2007 to 2015, it was instead 7.0 ppb per year.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence and agreement, including short description of nature of evidence and level of agreement NOAA data are the gold standard for determining global growth rates and abundances because of extensive global coverage and high internal network compatibility, including high measurement precision. The trends and growth rates also agree well with estimates from other laboratories.

Summary sentence or paragraph that integrates the above information NOAA CO2 and CH4 trends and abundances are publicly available, fully traceable, and represent the most comprehensive description of global CO2 and CH4.

KEY FINDING 2Inverse model analyses of atmospheric CO2 data suggest substantial interannual variability in net carbon uptake over North America. Over the period 2004 to 2013, North American fossil fuel emissions from inventories average 1,774 ± 24 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year, partially off-set by the land carbon sink of 699 ± 82 Tg C year. Additionally, inversion models suggest a trend

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toward an increasing sink during the period 2004 to 2013. These results contrast with the U.S. land sink estimates reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which are smaller and show very little trend or interannual variability.

Description of evidence base Fossil fuel emissions are from Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) estimates (available from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Systems Science Data Infra-structure for a Virtual Ecosystem [ESS-DIVE] data archive, ess-dive.lbl.gov). The land carbon sink is based on the 10-year average of North American annual fluxes from four global inverse models, specified in the text. The error reported is twice the standard error of the mean of the 10years and for the four models and mostly represents the amount of interannual variability. The evidence for a trend is based on a linear least-squares regression. The comparison of variability with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimate of the U.S. land sink is based on EPA data accessed at www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks-1990-2015.

Major uncertainties Fossil fuel emissions uncertainty is very low (see Appendix E: Fossil Fuel Emissions Estimates for North America, p. 839). Long-term means of CO2 sources and sinks derived from a given inverse model are highly uncertain. However, the interannual variability of fluxes from different models tends to agree well, suggesting lower uncertainty. EPA land flux estimates may not exhibit enough variability due to the U.S. Forest Service methodology, upon which EPA’s estimates are largely based.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence and agreement, including short description of nature of evidence and level of agreement Fossil fuel uncertainty at the national, annual scale has the smallest uncertainty because it can be constrained by highly accurate information on imports and exports and internal usage. Inverse model-based estimates of CO2 sources and sinks contain numerous random and systematic errors including biases associated with wind fields and parameterization of vertical mixing. Because models exhibit different mean atmospheric transport, their long-term average fluxes can differ significantly. However, the interannual variability of fluxes among inverse models is much more similar, meaning that the difference between the inverse model and EPA flux variability is likely to be robust.

Estimated likelihood of impact or consequence, including short description of basis ofestimate The contrast between variability exhibited in the inverse model and the EPA estimates of land sink variability could cause EPA to reexamine its methodologies. Additionally, the emerging evi-dence that the North American CO2 sink is growing also could spur research in the “bottom-up” community and impact policy decisions.

Summary sentence or paragraph that integrates the above information Regularly produced inverse modeling estimates of CO2 sources and sinks over North America are beginning to provide valuable information at least on interannual variability of terrestrial ecosys-tem fluxes.

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KEY FINDING 3During most of the study period covered by the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (2004 to 2012), inverse model analyses of atmospheric CH4 data show minimal interannual variability in emissions and no robust evidence of trends in either temperate or boreal regions. The absence of a trend in North American CH4 emissions contrasts starkly with global emissions, which show signif-icant growth since 2007. Methane emissions for North America over the period 2004 to 2009 esti-mated from six inverse models average 66 ± 2 Tg CH4 per year. Over the same period, EPA-reported CH4 emissions equate to a climate impact of 13% of CO2 emissions, given a 100-year time horizon.

Description of evidence base The conclusions of minimal interannual variability (standard deviation), trend (slope and its uncertainty), and mean flux are all based on fluxes from 14 inverse models used in the global CH4 budget analysis of the Global Carbon Project (Saunois et al., 2016). The 13% ratio of CH4 to CO2 warming impact is based on EPA CH4 and CO2 emission estimates using a 100-year global warming potential (GWP) value of 28.

Major uncertainties Total CH4 emissions for North America include the inversely derived value of 60 Tg CH4 per year and the EPA anthropogenic emissions estimate for the United States, which would impact the 13% ratio. Inverse models are subject to poorly known uncertainties stemming from the use of biased priors, imperfect models of atmospheric transport, and the sparse network of in situ measurements.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence and agreement, including short description of nature of evidence and level of agreement Total emissions have a high uncertainty (not reflected in the variability value stated in the Key Finding); note that EPA does not provide an uncertainty for its estimate. The absence of any trend has higher confidence, because numerous models with different methodologies contributed to this finding. However, the models used in the comparison did not uniformly cover the 2000 to 2013 period, making the conclusion less robust than that for CO2. On the other hand, the smaller variability relative to CO2 is consistent across models and is more robust. The 13% value is uncer-tain because of EPA’s CH4 emissions estimate and, to a lesser extent, the GWP uncertainty.

Estimated likelihood of impact or consequence, including short description of basis ofestimate The finding that CH4 is unlikely to have a temperate North American trend different from zero is significant, because there is great interest in the cumulative radiative forcing impact of CH4 emis-sions from the oil and gas sector. Moreover, while not a new finding, the simple calculation of CH4 having only 13% of the warming impact as CO2 should remind policymakers and scientists that CO2 emissions are substantially more important.

Summary sentence or paragraph that integrates the above information The global and North American emissions were derived using atmospheric CH4 data assimilated in a wide variety of CH4 inverse models using both in situ and remote-sensing data. Although a consistent picture is emerging, the results are more uncertain than those for CO2, because esti-mates are not produced regularly over consistent timescales.

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Chapter 8 | Observations of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Methane

363Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2)November 2018

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Section III | State of Air, Land, and Water

364 U.S. Global Change Research Program November 2018

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8 Observations of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Methane - [PDF Document] (2024)


What effect do carbon dioxide and methane have on Earth's atmosphere? ›

Earth's greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. The main gases responsible for the greenhouse effect include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. In addition to these natural compounds, synthetic fluorinated gases also function as greenhouse gases.

What is happening to the level of carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere? ›

Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years. Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today.

What are the processes that release CO2 or CH4 to the atmosphere? ›

Carbon dioxide (CO2): Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., cement production).

What are 3 major human activities that increase the presence of methane CH4 in the atmosphere? ›

The largest sources of methane are agriculture, fossil fuels, and decomposition of landfill waste. Natural processes account for 40% of methane emissions, with wetlands being the largest natural source. (Learn more about the Global Methane Budget.)

What happens when carbon dioxide mixes with methane? ›

The reaction of carbon dioxide with methane, and dry reforming in particular utilizes two abundantly available greenhouse gases, to produce the industrially important syngas (CO + H2 mixture). From the CO + H2 mixture both fuel and methanol or plenty of other products can be produced using available technologies.

Why is carbon dioxide and methane bad for the environment? ›

It is responsible for more than 25 per cent of the global warming we are experiencing today. Due to its structure, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide (CO2), making it 80 times more harmful than CO2 for 20 years after it is released.

What happens when too much carbon dioxide and methane build up in the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels? ›

When fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere, causing global warming. Already the average global temperature has increased by 1C.

What are the effects of methane in the atmosphere? ›

Methane is the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas, exposure to which causes 1 million premature deaths every year. Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.

How much methane is toxic to a human? ›

Methane is non-toxic and creates no hazard when inhaled in limited quantities; however, if large quantities of natural gas or methane is allowed to displace air, lack of oxygen may result in suffocation.

What processes produce CO2 and methane? ›

Combustion of natural gas and petroleum products for heating and cooking emits carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Emissions from natural gas consumption represent 78% of the direct fossil fuel CO2 emissions from the residential and commercial sector in 2022.

What are the effects of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4? ›

Greenhouse gases act similarly to the glass in a greenhouse: they absorb the sun's heat that radiates from the Earth's surface, trap it in the atmosphere and prevent it from escaping into space. The greenhouse effect keeps the Earth's temperature warmer than it would otherwise be, supporting life on Earth.

What are the three processes that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere mention and explain? ›

Respiration, excretion, and decomposition release the carbon back into the atmosphere or soil, continuing the cycle. The ocean plays a critical role in carbon storage, as it holds about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere.

What are 5 facts about methane? ›

What follows are five basic facts about methane.
  • Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas and climate pollutant. ...
  • Methane primarily is produced from human sources. ...
  • Methane directly and indirectly degrades air quality. ...
  • Methane causes serious damage to human health. ...
  • It is urgent to regulate and curb methane emissions.
Nov 16, 2020

What is the lifespan of methane in the atmosphere? ›

Methane has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide (CO2) – around 12 years compared with centuries – but absorbs much more energy while it exists in the atmosphere.

What happens when methane burns in the air? ›

Complete answer:

The burning of methane results in the formation of a blue flame which is a sign that a great amount of heat is also evolved. This makes methane a good fuel source. This is a reaction of hydrocarbons with air so it will evolve carbon dioxide and water.

How does carbon dioxide affect the Earth's atmosphere? ›

Without carbon dioxide, Earth's natural greenhouse effect would be too weak to keep the average global surface temperature above freezing. By adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, people are supercharging the natural greenhouse effect, causing global temperature to rise.

What does carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere block? ›

TAGS. Proposal: Carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere block the escape of heat into space. So emission of these “greenhouse” gases contributes to global warming.

What do carbon dioxide and methane molecules absorb in the atmosphere? ›

But greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane are made up of three or more atoms, which gives them a larger variety of ways to stretch and bend and twist. That means they can absorb a wider range of wavelengths — including infrared waves.

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