European CH4 emissions are estimated for the period 2001-2006 using a four-dimensional variational (4DVAR) inverse modeling system, based on the atmospheric zoom model TM5. Continuous observations are used from various European monitoring stations, complemented by European and global flask samples from the NOAA/ESRL network. The available observations mainly provide information on the emissions from northwest Europe (NWE), including the UK, Ireland, the BENELUX countries, France and Germany. The inverse modeling estimates for the total anthropogenic emissions from NWE are 21% higher compared to the EDGARv4.0 emission inventory and 40% higher than values reported to U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Assuming overall uncertainties on the order of 30% for both bottom-up and top-down estimates, all three estimates can be still considered to be consistent with each other. However, the uncertainties in the uncertainty estimates prevent us from verifying (or falsifying) the bottom-up inventories in a strict sense. Sensitivity studies show some dependence of the derived spatial emission patterns on the set of atmospheric monitoring stations used, but the total emissions for the NWE countries appear to be relatively robust. While the standard inversions include a priori information on the spatial and temporal emission patterns from bottom-up inventories, a further sensitivity inversion without this a priori information results in very similar NWE country totals, demonstrating that the available observations provide significant constraints on the emissions from the NWE countries independent from bottom-up inventories.