Forward and Inverse Modelling of Atmospheric Nitrous Oxide Using MIROC4-Atmospheric Chemistry-Transport Model

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan, Volume 100, Issue 2 , doi:, p.361 - 386 (2022)


Atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O) contributes to global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, so reducing uncertainty in estimates of emissions from different sources is important for climate policy. In this study, we simulate atmospheric N2O using an atmospheric chemistry-transport model (ACTM), and the results are first compared with the in situ measurements. Five combinations of known (a priori) N2O emissions due to natural soil, agricultural land, other human activities, and sea–air exchange are used. The N2O lifetime is 127.6 ± 4.0 yr in the control ACTM simulation (range indicates interannual variability). Regional N2O emissions are optimized using Bayesian inverse modeling for 84 partitions of the globe at monthly intervals, using measurements at 42 sites around the world covering 1997–2019. The best estimated global land and ocean emissions are 12.99 ± 0.22 TgN yr−1 and 2.74 ± 0.27 TgN yr−1, respectively, for 2000–2009, and 14.30 ± 0.20 TgN yr−1 and 2.91 ± 0.27 TgN yr−1, respectively, for 2010–2019. On regional scales, we find that the most recent ocean emission estimation, with lower emissions in the Southern Ocean regions, fits better with that predicted by the inversions. Marginally higher (lower) emissions than the inventory/model for the tropical (extratropical) land regions are estimated and validated using independent aircraft observations. Global land and ocean emission variabilities show a statistically significant correlation with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Analysis of regional land emissions shows increases over America (Temperate North, Central, and Tropical), Central Africa, and Asia (South, East, and Southeast) between the 2000s and 2010s. Only Europe as a whole recorded a slight decrease in N2O emissions due to the chemical industry. Our inversions suggest revisions to seasonal emission variations for three of the 15 land regions (East Asia, Temperate North America, and Central Africa), and the Southern Ocean region. The terrestrial ecosystem model (Vegetation Integrative SImulator for Trace Gases) can simulate annual total emissions in agreement with the observed N2O growth rate since 1978, but the lag-time scales of N2O emissions from nitrogen fertilizer application