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Global budget of ethane and regional constraints on U.S. sources


We use a 3-D chemical transport model (the GEOS-Chem CTM) to evaluate a global emission inventory for ethane (C2H6), with a best estimate for the global source of 13 Tg yr-1, 8.0 Tg yr-1 from fossil fuel production, 2.6 Tg yr-1 from biofuel, and 2.4 Tg yr-1 from biomass burning. About 80% of the source is emitted in the Northern Hemisphere. The model generally provides a reasonable and unbiased simulation of surface air observations, column measurements, and aircraft profiles worldwide, including patterns of geographical and seasonal variability. The main bias is a 20%-30% overestimate at European surface sites. Propagation of the C2H6 seasonal signal from northern midlatitudes to the equatorial western Pacific and the southern tropics demonstrates the dominance of northern midlatitudes as a source of C2H6 worldwide. Interhemispheric transport provides the largest C2H6 source to the Southern Hemisphere (1.7 Tg yr-1), and southern biomass burning provides the other major source (1.0 Tg yr-1). The C2H6 emission inventory for the United States from the Environmental Protection Agency (0.6 Tg yr-1) is considerably lower than our estimate constrained by extensive aircraft observations in the continental boundary layer (2.4 Tg yr-1). This appears to reflect a factor 7 underestimate in the fossil fuel source over the south-central, United States. Our estimate Of C2H6 emissions, together with observed ratios of CH4:C2H6, suggest that CH4 emissions from energy production in the U.S. may be underestimated by as much as 50%-100%. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.

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