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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

IMPROVING CHARACTERIZATION OF
ANTHROPOGENIC METHANE EMISSIONS
IN THE UNITED STATES

Committee on Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States:
Improving Measurement, Monitoring, Presentation of Results,
and Development of Inventories

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
Board on Energy and Environmental Systems
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology

Division on Earth and Life Studies

A Consensus Study Report of

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001

This study was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under contract number NNX16AK95G, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under contract number WC133R-11-CQ-0048, TO #12, the U.S. Department of Energy under contract number DE-EP0000026/DE-DT0012375, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under contract number EP-C-14-005, BASE. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-47050-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-47050-1
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/24987
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018941719

Additional copies of this publication are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2018 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24987.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

Image

Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

COMMITTEE ON ANTHROPOGENIC METHANE EMISSIONS IN THE UNITED STATES: IMPROVING MEASUREMENT, MONITORING, PRESENTATION OF RESULTS, AND DEVELOPMENT OF INVENTORIES

JAMES W. C. WHITE (Chair), University of Colorado Boulder

DAVID ALLEN, The University of Texas at Austin

PRAVEEN K. AMAR, Independent Consultant, Lexington, MA

JEAN BOGNER, University of Illinois, Chicago

LORI BRUHWILER, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO

DANIEL COOLEY, Colorado State University, Fort Collins

CHRISTIAN FRANKENBERG, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

FIJI GEORGE, Southwestern Energy, Spring, TX

LISA HANLE, Independent Consultant, Alexandria, VA

ALEXANDER N. HRISTOV, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

ERMIAS KEBREAB, University of California, Davis

APRIL LEYTEM, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kimberly, ID

MARIA MASTALERZ, Indiana University, Bloomington

STEVEN WOFSY, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff

KATHERINE THOMAS, Senior Program Officer

APRIL MELVIN, Program Officer

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

MICHAEL HUDSON, Senior Program Assistant

__________________

NOTE: See Appendix H, Disclosure of Conflict of Interest.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE

A. R. RAVISHANKARA (Chair), Colorado State University, Fort Collins

SHUYI S. CHEN (Vice Chair), University of Washington, Seattle

CECILIA BITZ, University of Washington, Seattle

MARK A. CANE, Columbia University, Palisades, NY

HEIDI CULLEN, Climate Central, Princeton, NJ

ROBERT DUNBAR, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

PAMELA EMCH, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, CA

ARLENE FIORE, Columbia University, Palisades, NY

PETER FRUMHOFF, Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA

WILLIAM B. GAIL, Global Weather Corporation, Boulder, CO

MARY GLACKIN, The Weather Company, Washington, DC

TERRI S. HOGUE, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

EVERETTE JOSEPH, SUNY University at Albany, NY

RONALD “NICK” KEENER, JR., Duke Energy Corporation, Charlotte, NC

ROBERT KOPP, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ

L. RUBY LEUNG, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA

JONATHAN MARTIN, University of Wisconsin–Madison

JONATHAN OVERPECK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

ALLISON STEINER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

DAVID W. TITLEY, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

DUANE WALISER, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Ocean Studies Board Liaison

DAVID HALPERN, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff

AMANDA STAUDT, Director

DAVID ALLEN, Senior Program Officer

LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer

KATHERINE THOMAS, Senior Program Officer

LAUREN EVERETT, Program Officer

APRIL MELVIN, Program Officer

AMANDA PURCELL, Program Officer

YASMIN ROMITTI, Research Associate

RITA GASKINS, Administrative Coordinator

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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SHELLY FREELAND, Financial Associate

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

MICHAEL HUDSON, Senior Program Assistant

ERIN MARKOVICH, Senior Program Assistant/Research Assistant

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

Acknowledgments

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Ramón Alvarez, Environmental Defense Fund

Adam Brandt, Stanford University

Elisabeth M. Drake (NAE), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (emeritus)

John Eiler, California Institute of Technology

Marc Fischer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Michael Gillenwater, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute

Roger Green, Waste Management, Inc.

Gilbert Jersey, ExxonMobil (retired)

Özgen Karacan, U.S. Geological Survey Headquarters

Eric Kort, University of Michigan

David Lowry, Royal Holloway, University of London

Tim McAllister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Claudia Wagner-Riddle, University of Guelph

Ray Weiss, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Dan Zimmerle, Colorado State University

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Chris G. Whipple, ENVIRON (retired), and Spyros N. Pandis, Carnegie Mellon University. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

We thank our collaborating National Academies boards, including Elizabeth Eide (Board on Earth Sciences and Resources), John Holmes (Board on Energy and Environmental Systems), Robin Schoen (Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources), and Raymond Wassel (Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology). We would also like to thank numerous people who provided input to the Committee throughout the study process (see the list of names in Appendix E). Additionally, we thank the following organizations and their staff for hosting the Committee on our various field trips: Anadarko Petroleum Company, Kinder Morgan, the University of California, Davis Department of Animal Science, and Southwestern Energy.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

Preface

It is not the norm for scientists to describe an atmospheric gas as intriguing, but perhaps we should make an exception for methane, the subject of this report. Methane touches our lives in many ways, from significant climate impacts to multiple public health effects. And unlike many other important greenhouse gases, methane does not have a single dominant source, but rather a myriad of significant anthropogenic and natural sources, a situation that requires a broadly interdisciplinary approach to understanding the sources and impacts of, and controls on, this gas.

At the request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine established the Committee on Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. This necessitated bringing together a group of experts in fields ranging from measurements and modeling of atmospheric gases, to petroleum and gas exploration, recovery, and distribution; enteric fermentation in farm animals; landfill gas production and gas recovery; management of animal waste on farms; coal mine gases; national and international policies on atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases; and environmental statistics.

We had to learn each other’s languages, approaches, and views of the world of methane. Initially, like a team of blind people touching and describing different parts of an elephant, we stuck with our own parts and our own world, but quickly the team began to use a common language and describe together the greater, more complex whole that is anthropogenic atmospheric methane. Stepping out of individual comfort zones, the Committee formed a cohesive team that shared trips to a petroleum and natural gas facility and a cattle farm dedicated to quantifying methane emissions from cows and cow manure—complete with a visit to a large tent filled with barrels of decaying manure—and viewed many presentations from experts spanning the many sectors that interact with methane. It is safe to say that it was a learning experience for everyone, and the Committee hopes that this report, with its impressive breadth and depth, will be valuable to policymakers, those working in field sites across the United States, and scientists as well. The Committee hopes the report helps scientists, policy-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
×

makers, and science communicators to more accurately convey the state of current understanding and relevance of future studies.

The Committee was charged with examining approaches to measuring, monitoring, presenting, and developing inventories of anthropogenic emissions of methane to the atmosphere. A major focus of this report is to examine the range of inventories and the approaches for developing those inventories, as well as the associated data requirements. The goal is to help federal agencies develop inventories with wider applications and improved accuracy and verifiability. Currently, the U.S. national Greenhouse Gas Inventory of methane emissions cannot be independently verified because both spatial and temporal attributes are missing, and thus expected atmospheric concentrations cannot be inferred. There are many benefits of building a strong link between atmospheric measurements of methane concentrations and methane emission inventories, including the discovery of missing sources or processes, improved confidence in the basic data that enter into decisions by companies and governments, and enhanced capability to detect trends over time. Other important elements of the charge, such as research to address key uncertainties, enhanced observing networks, and remote sensing techniques, are also considered.

In addressing its task, the Committee met five times from January to August 2017 to discuss the current understanding of U.S. anthropogenic methane emissions across dominant sectors, including key uncertainties and unmet research needs. The Committee also conducted an extensive review of the published literature on these topics, again with the aim of presenting conclusions and recommendations related to the primary U.S. anthropogenic sources of methane emissions in a common language and framework. Two of the meetings, in March and May 2017, were centered around open public workshops that gathered extensive input from scientists across academia, federal and state agencies, industry, and nongovernmental organizations, and included site visits to two operating petroleum and natural gas facilities and a livestock facility. Additional community and stakeholder input was gathered in a series of public webinars and in brief open sessions at meetings in January and July 2017.

On a final, more personal note, I would like to thank the Committee members, who gave so freely of their time and talent, and who were models of interdisciplinary listening and respect. Thanks also to the NAS staff, who organized us, melded our writings and thoughts, and were there with us in that manure-filled tent. And thanks to those who presented to the Committee and enriched this report in doing so, and to the reviewers who helped to sharpen and focus the report. The monitoring and verifica-

Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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tion of methane emissions is a science that is, at least in part, still in early stages of development. But it is a large and very important task, one that we must take on to live sustainably and with resilience on this shared planet. The United States should take bold action now to match monitoring and measurement efforts to the importance of the task.

James W. C. White, Chair
Committee on Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24987.
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Understanding, quantifying, and tracking atmospheric methane and emissions is essential for addressing concerns and informing decisions that affect the climate, economy, and human health and safety. Atmospheric methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that contributes to global warming. While carbon dioxide is by far the dominant cause of the rise in global average temperatures, methane also plays a significant role because it absorbs more energy per unit mass than carbon dioxide does, giving it a disproportionately large effect on global radiative forcing. In addition to contributing to climate change, methane also affects human health as a precursor to ozone pollution in the lower atmosphere.

Improving Characterization of Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States summarizes the current state of understanding of methane emissions sources and the measurement approaches and evaluates opportunities for methodological and inventory development improvements. This report will inform future research agendas of various U.S. agencies, including NOAA, the EPA, the DOE, NASA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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