U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Improving Understanding of Future Chemically Active Greenhouse Gases?
Published: May 08, 2012
Posted: August 21, 2012

Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion contribute to climate warming, but to better estimate the amount of warming, uncertainties about the concentrations and the climate response need to be addressed. Some greenhouse gases are chemically reactive in the atmosphere, have additional uncertainties about their chemical production and destruction, and may be potential targets for short-term mitigation. New DOE research at the University of California at Irvine has taken the first systematic look at the uncertainties in attributing and projecting human-driven increases in greenhouse gases. The Representative Concentration Pathways future emissions scenarios used in the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment have large uncertainties for methane (CH4, 25%) and nitrous oxide (N2O, 50%), and thus do not accurately project future abundances. The new study combines observational and model data with uncertainties that constrain the pre-industrial (natural) and current (natural + anthropogenic) greenhouse gas budgets. These data include pre-industrial abundances, current abundances and trends, lifetimes past and projected, and atmospheric distributions. Statistical methods were applied to assess, for the first time, the current budgets, anthropogenic fractions, and projected abundances with uncertainties. The methane lifetime was found to be 9.1 ± 0.9 years. Anthropogenic emissions contribute 64% of total emissions. N2O and CH4 emissions and abundances, including uncertainties, were also projected and values sometimes deviated from projections given by integrated assessment models. The research helps identify aspects of these chemical systems requiring further research and improves both the projections and mitigation potentials for greenhouse gases.

Reference: Prather, M. J., C. D. Holmes, and J. Hsu. 2012. "Reactive Greenhouse Gas Scenarios: Systematic Exploration of Uncertainties and the Role of Atmospheric Chemistry," Geophysical Research Letters 39, L09803. DOI: 10.1029/2012GL051440. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Multisector Dynamics (formerly Integrated Assessment)

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)