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Atmospheric dispersion of methane emissions from sugarcane burning in Mexico

Flores-Jiménez, David E., Carbajal, Noel, Algara-Siller, Marcos, Aguilar-Rivera, Noé, Álvarez-Fuentes, Gregorio, Ávila-Galarza, Alfredo, García, Agustín R.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.250 pp. 922-933
atmospheric circulation, burning, emissions, greenhouse gases, methane, methane production, models, pollutants, remote sensing, statistical analysis, sugarcane, wind, Brazil, India, Mexico
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas whose atmospheric dispersion may have different implications at distinct scales. One significant contributor to methane emissions is sugarcane farming in tropical areas like in Mexico, which has the sixth highest production level in the world. A consequence of the industrial use of this resource is that sugarcane preharvest burning emits large quantities of methane and other pollutants. The objective of this research is to estimate the methane emissions by sugarcane burning and to analyze their atmospheric dispersion under the influence of meteorological parameters, according to different concentration scenarios generated during a period. The methane emissions were investigated using the methodology of Seiler and Crutzen, based on the stage production during the harvest periods of 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014. Average of total emissions (1.4 × 103 Mg) at the national level was comparable in magnitude to those of other relevant sugarcane-producing countries such as India and Brazil. Satellite images and statistical methods were used to validate the spatial distribution of methane, which was obtained with the WRF model. The results show a dominant wind circulation pattern toward the east in the San Luis Potosi area, to the west in Jalisco, and the north in Tabasco. In the first two areas, wind convergence at a certain height causes a downward flow, preventing methane dispersion. The concentrations in these areas varied from 9.22 × 10−5 to 1.22 × 102 ppmv and 32 × 10−5 to 2.36 × 102 ppmv, respectively. Wind conditions in Tabasco contributed to high dispersion and low concentrations of methane, varying from 8.74 × 105 to 0.33 × 102 ppmv. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas for which it is essential to study and understand their dispersion at different geographic locations and atmospheric conditions.