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

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JournalNature Geoscience
DateAccepted/In press - 29 Jan 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2018
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2018
Issue number3
Volume11
Pages (from-to)178-184
Early online date26/02/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

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.

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