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Advanced Computing, Mathematics and Data
Research Highlights

April 2018

Shippert Contributes to First-ever Observations of Methane’s Impact on Greenhouse Effect

Work detailed in ‘Nature Geoscience’ shows how methane acts as heat-trapping greenhouse gas

In the recently released work, “Observationally Derived Rise in Methane Surface Forcing Mediated by Water Vapour Trends,” published in Nature Geoscience, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of California, Berkeley; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Colorado-Boulder; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory drew on a decade’s worth of detailed measurements to present the first observational outcome and quantification of methane’s influence of the greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface. This first-ever evaluation was made possible by detailed observation data provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility, known as ARM.

Tim Shippert of ACMD Division’s Data Integration Team.

The greenhouse effect, or warming of the Earth’s lower atmosphere, occurs when radiation from the sun is absorbed by the Earth then is re-emitted and absorbed by carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere, such as methane. This action increases the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and has long been a subject for study in atmospheric science.

For his contribution to the newly published work, Tim Shippert, an engineer with the Data Integration team in PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division Data Sciences group, evaluated the potential for clear-sky bias in the methane forcing by running Broadband Heating Rate Profile (BBHRP) and Radiatively Important Parameters Best Estimate (RIPBE) data products that were developed for ARM.

“We compared two cases, pre-industrial methane levels versus measured methane levels, to evaluate the impact of increases under clear-sky and all-sky conditions,” Shippert explained. “This is similar to the work done for carbon dioxide detailed in an earlier paper published in Nature, which featured many of the same members of this current collaboration.”

And, as with the team’s earlier work involving carbon dioxide, Shippert noted that PNNL’s Institutional Computing (PIC) capabilities were instrumental in fulfilling the calculations required as part of the analysis.

“PIC was a key resource for getting this work done on time,” he added.

For more about the research, led by LBNL, see the press release: “First Direct Observations of Methane’s Increasing Greenhouse Effect at the Earth’s Surface.”


  • Feldman DR, WD Collins, SC Biraud, MD Risser, DD Turner, PJ Gero, J Tadic, D Helmig, S Xie, EJ Mlawer, TR Shippert, and MS Torn. 2018. “Observationally derived rise in methane surface forcing mediated by water vapour trends.” Nature Geoscience 11(4):238-243. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0085-9.

The code developed for this research, written in MATLAB, is available by request from the authors.


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