Using Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (ICOS) for Aircraft Measurements of Methane Isotopologues

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Jordan Patrick Wilkerson1, David S Sayres1, Claire E Healy1, Jason Brent Munster1, Manvendra Krishna Dubey2 and James G Anderson1, (1)Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, (2)Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States
Methane emissions in arctic regions have the potential to contribute a large positive radiative forcing to our climate structure. However, methane in the Arctic has multiple sources and sinks which can complicate source attribution and quantification attempts. In situ stable isotope measurements provide a way to help tease apart different methane sources since the two primary methane sources, thermogenic and biogenic, have distinct isotopic signatures. Ultimately, this knowledge about the ratio between 13CH4 and 12CH4 concentrations can help us understand the relative contribution from each source. The ICOS instrument developed in our lab is an ideal candidate to obtain this type of information. Unlike other measurement methods such as IRMS, our instrument has been tailored to fit in a small aircraft capable of flying below the boundary layer in the arctic region. We flew ICOS in Summer 2013 over the north slope of Alaska and obtained spatially (every 160 m) and temporally (every 2 s) resolved δ13CH4 measurements in real time. Future missions will entail a Stirling-cooled detector in the instrument to further enhance the precision and sensitivity of the measurements. These field missions will enhance our understanding of the routes by which methane is being produced in these regions. This improved knowledge can then lead to improved predictive ability regarding the characteristics of future methane flux and its effect on our climate.