Over the past century, atmospheric methane (CH4) rose dramatically before leveling off in the late 1990s. The processes controlling this trend are poorly understood, limiting confidence in projections of future CH4. The MOZART-2 global tropospheric chemistry model qualitatively captures the observed CH4 trend (increasing in the early 1990s and then leveling off) with constant emissions. From 1991-1995 to 2000-2004, the CH4 lifetime versus tropospheric OH decreases by 1.6%, reflecting increases in OH and temperature. The rise in OH stems from an increase in lightning NOx as parameterized in the model. A simulation including annually varying anthropogenic and wetland CH4 emissions, as well as the changes in meteorology, best reproduces the observed CH4 distribution, trend, and seasonal cycles. Projections of future CH4 abundances should consider climate-driven changes in CH4 sources and sinks.
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