Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Large regional shortwave forcing by anthropogenic methane informed by Jovian observations

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Science Advances  26 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaas9593
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aas9593


Recently, it was recognized that widely used calculations of methane radiative forcing systematically underestimated its global value by 15% by omitting its shortwave effects. We show that shortwave forcing by methane can be accurately calculated despite considerable uncertainty and large gaps in its shortwave spectroscopy. We demonstrate that the forcing is insensitive, even when confronted with much more complete methane absorption spectra extending to violet light wavelengths derived from observations of methane-rich Jovian planets. We undertake the first spatially resolved global calculations of this forcing and find that it is dependent on bright surface features and clouds. Localized annual mean forcing from preindustrial to present-day methane increases approaches +0.25 W/m2, 10 times the global annualized shortwave forcing and 43% of the total direct CH4 forcing. Shortwave forcing by anthropogenic methane is sufficiently large and accurate to warrant its inclusion in historical analyses, projections, and mitigation strategies for climate change.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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