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Arctic Methane: Hello and welcome to the MAMM blog

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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by Professor John Pyle, Principal Investigator of the MAMM project, University of Cambridge.

Methane is a key greenhouse gas; the Arctic is a key region for natural emissions of methane; high summer and autumn are key periods when emissions can peak and change rapidly. Understanding the relevant processes is a key to climate prediction. As will be explained in the next blog post, the MAMM project aims to unlock some of the mysteries.

Our second intensive aircraft campaign, a complement to a longer ground-based measurement effort, kicks off on August 15, 2013. It’s an exciting – and slightly scary – period for the scientists involved. Will instruments work? Will the atmosphere cooperate? Will we be in the right place at the right time? We can’t guarantee success but we’ll work our socks off to give ourselves the best possible chance.

Intensive fieldwork is hugely rewarding – the camaraderie provides a real high. And the Arctic is a beautiful place to go. Twenty years ago, I was involved in a series of pan-European campaigns, based in Kiruna in northern Sweden, to understand Arctic stratospheric ozone loss. We were there in the winter, in a snowy landscape where temperatures fall well below zero and there is little daylight. Lakes and bogs are frozen for many months. Now, we hope to measure the methane emissions which emanate from the wetlands when the temperatures rise. Last year, we saw emission hot spots over the Finnish wetlands. This time we hope to characterise their temperature dependence. Last year we also flew to Svalbard; we’ll probably revisit and make new measurements there in September when the Arctic ocean  ice coverage will be at a minimum.

We don’t know exactly what we’ll find. That’s the nature of science. But we expect that unravelling whatever we do find will be challenging – and lots of fun.

Michelle Cain About the Author: Michelle Cain is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Atmospheric Science in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a Natural Environment Research Council policy placement fellow at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK. She completed her doctorate at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, where she used both computer models and measurement data to study the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere. She is currently using these techniques to study pollutants in the atmosphere globally, including methane emissions in the Arctic. Posts will come from both Michelle and her colleagues working on the Arctic field work. Follow on Twitter @civiltalker.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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