The 2007-2011 evolution of tropical methane in the mid-troposphere as seen from space by MetOp-A/IASI
Since July 2007, monthly averages of mid-tropospheric methane have been retrieved in the tropics over land and sea, by day and night, from IASI onboard MetOp-A, yielding a complete view of the geographical distribution, seasonality and long-term tendency of methane in the mid-troposphere. Retrieved methane displays a clear seasonal cycle of ~25 ppbv in the northern tropics, with a maximum in November and a minimum in April-May, a more complex cycle of ~15 ppbv in the southern tropics, and a south-to-north latitudinal variation of ~30 ppbv - in good agreement with regular aircraft measurements of the CONTRAIL program. Comparisons with CARIBIC aircraft measurements made at ~11 km yield an averaged difference between collocated IASI estimates and CARIBIC measurements of 7.2 ppbv with a standard deviation of 13.1 ppbv. Comparisons with aircraft measurements made above 6 km during five HIPPO campaigns give an averaged difference between collocated IASI estimates and HIPPO measurements of 5.1 ppbv with a standard deviation of 16.3 ppbv. These comparisons show that IASI captures well the evolution of mid-tropospheric methane. In particular, in 2007 and 2008, IASI shows an increase of mid-tropospheric methane in the tropical region of 9.5 ± 2.8 and 6.3 ± 1.7 ppbv yr-1, respectively - in excellent agreement with the rate of increase measured at the surface after almost a decade of near-zero growth. IASI also indicates a slowing down of this increase in the following years to ~2 ppbv yr-1, with the highest increase in 2010. Assuming that the recent evolution of methane is mostly due to an increase in surface emissions, IASI might indicate a decrease in tropical wetland emissions for the period 2009-2011 compared to 2007-2008, in agreement with decreasing tropical precipitation over this period, together with an increase in biomass burning emissions in 2010 in the southern tropics.