Continuing Worldwide Increase in Tropospheric Methane, 1978 to 1987

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Science  04 Mar 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4844, pp. 1129-1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4844.1129


The average worldwide tropospheric mixing ratio of methane has increased by 11% from 1.52 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in January 1978 to 1.684 ppmv in September 1987, for an increment of 0.016 ± 0.001 ppmv per year. Within the limits of our measurements, the global tropospheric mixing ratio for methane over the past decade is consistent either with a linear growth rate of 0.016 ± 0.001 ppmv per year or with a slight lessening of the rate of growth over the past 5 years. No indications were found of an effect of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation-El Chichon events of 1982-83 on total global methane, although severe reductions were reported in the Pacific Northwest during that time period. The growth in tropospheric methane may have increased the water concentration in the stratosphere by as much as 28% since the 1940s and 45% over the past two centuries and thus could have increased the mass of precipitable water available for formation of polar stratospheric clouds.