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Validation of the Swiss methane emission inventory by atmospheric observations and inverse modelling

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Henne Stephan, Brunner Dominik, Oney Brian, Leuenberger Markus, Eugster Werner, Bamberger Ines, Meinhardt Frank, Steinbacher Martin, Emmenegger Lukas,
Project ICOS-CH: Integrated Carbon Observation System in Switzerland
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Volume (Issue) 16
Page(s) 3683 - 3710
Title of proceedings Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
DOI 10.5194/acp-16-3683-2016

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Atmospheric inverse modelling has the potential to provide observation-based estimates of greenhouse gas emissions at the country scale, thereby allowing for an independent validation of national emission inventories. Here, we present a regional-scale inverse modelling study to quantify the emissions of methane (CH4) from Switzerland, making use of the newly established CarboCount-CH measurement network and a high-resolution Lagrangian transport model. In our reference inversion, prior emissions were taken from the “bottom-up” Swiss Greenhouse Gas Inventory (SGHGI) as published by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment in 2014 for the year 2012. Overall we estimate national CH4 emissions to be 19618 Ggyr1 for the year 2013 (1 uncertainty). This result is in close agreement with the recently revised SGHGI estimate of 20633 Ggyr1 as reported in 2015 for the year 2012. Results from sensitivity inversions using alternative prior emissions, uncertainty covariance settings, large-scale background mole fractions, two different inverse algorithms (Bayesian and extended Kalman filter), and two different transport models confirm the robustness and independent character of our estimate. According to the latest SGHGI estimate the main CH4 source categories in Switzerland are agriculture (78 %), waste handling (15 %) and natural gas distribution and combustion (6 %). The spatial distribution and seasonal variability of our posterior emissions suggest an overestimation of agricultural CH4 emissions by 10 to 20% in the most recent SGHGI, which is likely due to an overestimation of emissions from manure handling. Urban areas do not appear as emission hotspots in our posterior results, suggesting that leakages from natural gas distribution are only a minor source of CH4 in Switzerland. This is consistent with rather low emissions of 8.4 Ggyr1 reported by the SGHGI but inconsistent with the much higher value of 32 Ggyr1 implied by the EDGARv4.2 inventory for this sector. Increased CH4 emissions (up to 30% compared to the prior) were deduced for the northeastern parts of Switzerland. This feature was common to most sensitivity inversions, which is a strong indicator that it is a real feature and not an artefact of the transport model and the inversion system. However, it was not possible to assign an unambiguous source process to the region. The observations of the CarboCount-CH network provided invaluable and independent information for the validation of the national bottom-up inventory. Similar systems need to be sustained to provide independent monitoring of future climate agreements.