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Anthropogenic and Natural Factors Affecting Trends in Atmospheric Methane in Barrow, Alaska

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, State University of New York University at Albany, Albany, NY 12203, USA
Department of Chemistry, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Atmosphere 2019, 10(4), 187;
Received: 5 February 2019 / Revised: 28 March 2019 / Accepted: 29 March 2019 / Published: 5 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Biosphere/Hydrosphere/Land - Atmosphere Interactions)
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This study examined the long-term trends in Arctic ambient methane (CH4) mixing ratios over 1986–2014 and investigated their potential causes. Significant correlations between carbon monoxide (CO) and CH4 in Barrow, Alaska (r = −0.59, p = 0.007) and Alert, Canada (r = −0.62, p = 0.004) with the strongest correlations occurring in April (r = −0.81, p = 0.000, and r = −0.80, p = 0.000) suggest local to global anthropogenic contributions to ambient CH4 during the cold months. Backward trajectories indicate a significant influence (27% of total trajectories) of local emissions from the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field on ambient CH4 in Barrow in winter, and this influence was dominated by other factors in summer. The mean CH4 wetland emission flux in Barrow over 1986–2014 was estimated to be 0.008 ± 0.002 µg m−2 s−1 while in Tiksi, Russia it was 0.010 µg m−2 s−1 over 2012–2016, which is comparable to the lower end of measurements in the literature. Note that in Barrow, there was a decrease in wetland flux from 0.0083 ± 0.002 µg m−2 s−1 over 1986–1998 to 0.0077 ± 0.002 µg m−2 s−1 from 1999–2006 followed by an increase to 0.0081 ± 0.002 µg m−2 s−1 over 2007–2014. Although the difference between the three values is not statistically significant due to small sample size, it is indicative of possible warm season wetland emissions contributing to the zero-growth period. Strong support for this hypothesis is that these changes are consistent with a concurrent drop in summertime temperature possibly causing a decrease in wetland emissions over 1998–2006 based on the statistically significant correlations between temperature and CH4 during August through November (r ~ 0.36–0.56, p = ≤0.05). In a warming climate, permafrost thawing can increase CH4 wetland emissions and also decrease wetlands making it a complex problem, and, hence, further study is needed to better understand the mechanisms driving long-term trends in Arctic CH4. View Full-Text
Keywords: arctic; methane; wetland emissions; permafrost; permafrost thaw arctic; methane; wetland emissions; permafrost; permafrost thaw

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Lawrence, C.; Mao, H. Anthropogenic and Natural Factors Affecting Trends in Atmospheric Methane in Barrow, Alaska. Atmosphere 2019, 10, 187.

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