Mexico City is the world's largest and most polluted urban center. We examine the distribution of methane and other hydrocarbons within the Valley of Mexico, using it as a model for the role developing megacities will play in the next century of geochemical cycling. Seventy-five whole air samples were analyzed with multivariate statistical techniques, including factor analysis using principal components. Methane concentrations are highly variable in space and time, due to air circulations and source distribution. Landfills and open sewage canals are major inputs. Emissions into and out from the valley are modeled to be ∼515 t per day. Per capita emission is 0.01 t per annum per person, consistent with the global average for human related anaerobic generation. Natural gas leaks are small, and likely to be higher in other developing megacities; Mexican natural gas use has been discouraged out of earthquake safety concerns. In contrast, liquefied petroleum gas loss constitutes the major emission of propane and butane estimated at a leak rate of 5-10%. Kyoto and other environmental conventions have ignored methane as a greenhouse gas. Our analysis underscores the need to consider methane and other hydrocarbons, and the urbanization process, in future emission protocols. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.