NOAA logo National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL)

What does this program measure?

Atmospheric methane (CH4) is measured in nanomoles per mole or nmole (abbreviated ppb).

How does this program work?

Gas chromatography with flame ionization detection is used in this project with the instruments, location and frequency listed below.

Methane Instruments Frequency Site
HP6890GC continuous MLO
2.5-L glass flask AIRKIT pump unit 2 pair/week Kumukahi
2.5-L glass flasks,MAKS pump unit 1 pair/week MLO
2.5-L evacuated glass flasks 1 pair/week MLO

Why is this research important?

Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential.

Are there any trends in the data?

Methane was steadily increasing in the 1980's, it's growth rate slowed in the 1990's, and it has had a near-zero growth rate for the last few years.

Global Methane
In the chart above, a three-dimensional presentation of global methane over time and latitude shows Mauna Loa data highlighted in red.

How does this program fit into the big picture?

What is it's role in global climate change?

Methane produces about 20% of present day greenhouse gas climate forcing. Methane is prduced by fossil fuel production and agriculture.

Direct radiative forcing due to the increase in methane since pre-industrial times is ~0.5 Wm-2

The NOAA ESRL GMD Carbon Cycle-Greenhouse Gases group (CCGG) conducts research to understand the global carbon cycle and its effects on climate. At CCGG measurements are made to determine baseline levels, trends and causes of variability of several atmospheric gases (carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide), that have the potential to affect global climate.

To obtain detailed understanding of the short term as well as long term variations of the greenhouse gases, CCGG makes on-site measurements at the four NOAA/CMDL baseline observatories, which are far from any pollution sources affecting the gases of interest.

Comments and References

Please visit our web site at

Dlugokencky, E J et al, Atmospheric methane at Mauna Loa and Barrow observatories: Presentation and Analysis of In-Situ Measurements. J. Geophys. Res., 100, 23,103 -23, 113, 1995.

Masarie, K A et al, A Rule-based Expert system for evaluating the quality of long-term, In Situ, Gas Chromatographic Measurements of atmospheric methane, NOAA Tech. Memo. ERL CMDL-3, NOAA Environ. Res. Lab, Boulder, Colorado, 1991.

Lead Investigator(s):

Dr. Ed Dlugokencky
(please email P.Lang)

MLO Contacts(s):

Aidan Colton
808-933-6965 (x233)
Paul Fukumura
808-933-6965 (x223)

Web Site(s):

Date Started:


Related Programs

In Situ Carbon Dioxide
In Situ Carbon Monoxide
Cooperative Global Air Sampling
Greenhouse Gases

Methane Analyzer at MLO
Methane GC
Methane 65 Ball Meter Equipment
Flow meter
Methane Stream Selection Valves
Valve switch box
Methane Flasks in Air Pump
Flasks in sampler
Flow Meter
Flow Meter