He said the incorporation of flaring -- along with improved measurements of residential combustion -- brought the team's modeling much closer to ground measurements of black carbon at six monitoring stations in Alaska, Canada, Finland, Norway and Greenland. The team assessed how residential emissions changed throughout the year, rather than using an average.
"None of the [earlier] models could successfully simulate the black carbon seasonal cycle observed at measurement stations, and all models strongly underestimated concentrations in winter and early spring," he said.
Black carbon levels measured at ground stations in Canada, Alaska and Greenland have been going down, but it is still not clear what the broader trends are elsewhere in the Arctic, according to Quinn. Measurements at higher latitudes -- which typically are gathered via aircraft campaigns -- are "sporadic," she said.
Time for an Arcticwide rule?
Flaring of gas dropped globally by about 18 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, part of the World Bank. However, production in places such as the Bakken oil play helped reverse that trend in 2011. The long-term trend could also shift with oil production in Brazil, Iraq and the United States, the partnership said in a recent newsletter.
Ellen Baum, a senior scientist at the Clean Air Task Force, said the study could "move the dial" and spur discussions about an Arcticwide standard on flaring. There may need to be a re-evaluation of the common assumption that flaring is the "climate friendly alternative" to venting of natural gas, because flaring destroys methane.
"There are climate risks we need to be more aware of," she said. Reinjection of gas is one of several options to curb flaring, she said.
Many Arctic nations such as Norway have good regulations, but there is still a long way to go across the region generally with new flaring limits and enforcement of existing rules, she said. The Arctic's remoteness makes operations difficult for many oil and gas companies, but that may change with the ongoing decline in ice, she said.
"At some point, there will be a jump in production," she said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500