European source strengths and northern hemisphere baseline concentrations of radiatively active trace gases at Mace Head, Ireland

RG Derwent*, PG Simmonds, S O'Doherty, P Ciais, DB Ryall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Greenhouse gas measurements have been made continuously with high frequency and precision at the remote baseline monitoring station at Mace Head on the Atlantic Ocean coastline of Ireland since 1987. By using three independent methods, the two-hourly observations have been sorted by air mass origins into those from "unpolluted" or Northern Hemisphere baseline air masses and those from "polluted" European air masses. Northern Hemisphere baseline methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide concentrations have risen throughout the 10 year period and their respective mid-1996 levels are the highest mid-year levels recorded so far. For ozone, the mid-1996 annual mean concentrations was within 0.1 ppb of the highest mid-year level. The elevated greenhouse gas concentrations found in "polluted" air masses provide clear evidence for the presence of substantial emission sources in Europe. Using a simple climatological long-range transport model and a sophisticated Lagrangian dispersion model, it has been possible to estimate the magnitudes of the greenhouse gas emissions required to support the observations. Estimates of European source strengths of methane, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and halocarbons agree well with the available emission inventories. Using the Mace Head observations, significant additional contributions to global climate change have been identified from the trace gases: methane, nitrous oxide and tropospheric ozone, over and above that driven by carbon dioxide. The radiative forcing consequences of a range of HCFCs and HFCs will only become of significance should their emissions grow to become comparable with those of the CFCs that they have replaced. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3703-3715
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998


  • greenhouse gases
  • radiatively active trace gases
  • carbon dioxide
  • methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • tropospheric ozone
  • HFCs
  • HCFCs
  • Lagrangian dispersion model
  • long range transport
  • CO2

Cite this