Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 1 February 2019

Mapping the atmosphere: Methane from East African swamps

FAAM flight map

A map of the FAAM flight path, taken on 28 January 2019

At the end of January the ECI's Dr Michelle Cain joined an ambitious 35-person piece of fieldwork in Uganda and Zambia. The research, part of the NERC-funded MOYA (Methane Observations and Yearly Assessments) and ZWAMPS (Zambian Swamps) projects, used the FAAM aircraft to gather 3-dimentional observations of methane concentrations in the atmosphere.

Scientists will piece together this important new methane data with wind and thermodynamic measurements, to build a detailed picture of ‘methane fluxes', which will reveal how much methane is coming out from these swamps.

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and since 2007, the atmospheric methane burden has increased sharply. The sources and sinks of methane are therefore an important question for scientists concerned with understanding climate change and its drivers. This field work will map tropical wetlands which are thought to be large methane sources, but which have not yet been studied in detail. The work will test the hypothesis that tropical Africa wetlands are a significant driver of the increasing atmospheric methane trends.

You can read Michelle's blog posts from the field, for further insight into life working on the MOYA project.

"The MOYA project is hugely ambitious, bringing together new measurements of under-studied methane emissions sources, such as wetlands in Uganda and Zambia, with new modelling analyses which will help to paint the best picture yet of what is driving the recent changes to methane in the atmosphere. We also observed many fires burning, which are another source of methane and other pollutants, which will form another strand of our analyses."

Michelle Cain, ECI, University of Oxford



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