Estimating UK methane and nitrous oxide emissions from 1990 to 2007 using an inversion modeling approach

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, Volume 116, Issue D2, p.D02305 (2011)





CH4, Constituent sources and sinks, emission estimates, inversion modeling, methane, N2O, nitrous oxide, Trace gases


Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have strong radiative properties in the Earth's atmosphere and both are regulated through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Through this convention the United Kingdom is obliged to report an inventory of annual emission estimates from 1990. This paper describes a methodology that estimates emissions of CH4 and N2O completely independent of the inventory values. Emissions have been estimated for each year 1990–2007 for the United Kingdom and for NW Europe. The methodology combines high-frequency observations from Mace Head, a monitoring site on the west coast of Ireland, with an atmospheric dispersion model and an inversion system. The sensitivities of the inversion method to the modeling assumptions are reported. The 20 year Northern Hemisphere midlatitude baseline mixing ratios, growth rates, and seasonal cycles of both gases are also presented. The results indicate reasonable agreement between the inventory and inversion results for the United Kingdom for N2O over the entire period. For CH4 the agreement is poor in the 1990s but good in the 2000s. The UK CH4 inventory reported reduction from 1990–1992 to 2005–2007 (over 50%) is dominated by changes to landfill and coal mine emissions and is more than double the corresponding drop in the inversion estimated emissions (24%). The inversion results suggest that the United Kingdom has met its Kyoto commitment (−12.5%) but by a smaller margin (−14.3%) than reported (−17.3%). The results for NW Europe with the United Kingdom removed show reasonable agreement in trend, on average the inversion results for N2O are 25% lower and for CH4 21% higher.