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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 18 Jan 2019

Research article | 18 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Implication of extreme atmospheric methane concentrations for chemistry-climate connections

Franziska Winterstein1, Fabian Tanalski1,2, Patrick Jöckel1, Martin Dameris1, and Michael Ponater1 Franziska Winterstein et al.
  • 1Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 2now at: MERPH-IP Patentanwälte PartG mbB, München, Germany

Abstract. Methane (CH4) is the second most important greenhouse gas, which atmospheric concentration is influenced by human activities. In this study, numerical simulations with a chemistry-climate model (CCM) are performed aiming to assess possible consequences of significantly enhanced CH4 concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere for the climate.

We analyze experiments with 2xCH4 and 5xCH4 present day (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 hydroxyl radical (OH) abundance and thereby extending the CH4 lifetime as well as the residence time of other chemical pollutants. The region above the tropopause is impacted by a substantial rise in stratospheric water vapor (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 up-welling and stronger meridional transport towards the polar regions. We calculate the net radiative impact (RI) of the 2xCH4 experiment to be 0.69 W/m2 and for the 5xCH4 experiment to be 1.79 W/m2. A substantial part of the RI 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 two/fivefold 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.

Franziska Winterstein et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Franziska Winterstein et al.
Franziska Winterstein et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The atmospheric concentrations of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas methane are predicted to rise in the future. In this paper we investigate how very strong methane concentrations will impact the atmosphere. We analyse two experiments, one with doubled and one with quintupled methane concentrations and focus on the rapid atmospheric changes before the ocean adjusts to the induced forcing. These are in particular changes in temperature, ozone, the hydroxyl radical and stratospheric water vapour.
The atmospheric concentrations of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas methane are predicted to rise...