Discrepancy between simulated and observed ethane and propane levels explained by underestimated fossil emissions

Stig B. Dalsøren*, Gunnar Myhre, Øivind Hodnebrog, Cathrine Lund Myhre, Andreas Stohl, Ignacio Pisso, Stefan Schwietzke, Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Detlev Helmig, Stefan Reimann, Stéphane Sauvage, Norbert Schmidbauer, Katie A. Read, Lucy J. Carpenter, Alastair C. Lewis, Shalini Punjabi, Markus Wallasch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethane and propane are the most abundant non-methane hydrocarbons in the atmosphere. However, their emissions, atmospheric distribution, and trends in their atmospheric concentrations are insufficiently understood. Atmospheric model simulations using standard community emission inventories do not reproduce available measurements in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, we show that observations of pre-industrial and present-day ethane and propane can be reproduced in simulations with a detailed atmospheric chemistry transport model, provided that natural geologic emissions are taken into account and anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions are assumed to be two to three times higher than is indicated in current inventories. Accounting for these enhanced ethane and propane emissions results in simulated surface ozone concentrations that are 5–13% higher than previously assumed in some polluted regions in Asia. The improved correspondence with observed ethane and propane in model simulations with greater emissions suggests that the level of fossil (geologic + fossil fuel) methane emissions in current inventories may need re-evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-184
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number3
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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