The Red Sea Deep Water is a potent source of atmospheric ethane and propane

Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, A. Pozzer, T. Sattler, V. N. Matthaios, L. Ernle, A. Edtbauer, H. Fischer, T. Könemann, Sergey Osipov, J. D. Paris, Eva Y. Pfannerstill, C. Stönner, Ivan Tadic, David Walter, N. Wang, Jos Lelieveld, J. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) such as ethane and propane are significant atmospheric pollutants and precursors of tropospheric ozone, while the Middle East is a global emission hotspot due to extensive oil and gas production. Here we compare in situ hydrocarbon measurements, performed around the Arabian Peninsula, with global model simulations that include current emission inventories (EDGAR) and state-of-the-art atmospheric circulation and chemistry mechanisms (EMAC model). While measurements of high mixing ratios over the Arabian Gulf are adequately simulated, strong underprediction by the model was found over the northern Red Sea. By examining the individual sources in the model and by utilizing air mass back-trajectory investigations and Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) analysis, we deduce that Red Sea Deep Water (RSDW) is an unexpected, potent source of atmospheric NMHCs. This overlooked underwater source is comparable with total anthropogenic emissions from entire Middle Eastern countries, and significantly impacts the regional atmospheric chemistry.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 28 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-21
Acknowledgements: We acknowledge the fruitful collaborations with the Cyprus Institute (CyI), the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR). We are grateful to Hays Ships Ltd, the ship’s captain Pavel Kirzner, and the ship crew for providing the best possible working conditions onboard Kommandor Iona. We thank all the participants of the AQABA ship campaign and in particular Hartwig Harder for the fruitful discussions and day-to-day organization of the campaign, and Marcel Dorf, Claus Koeppel, Thomas Klüpfel, and Rolf Hofmann for logistics organization and assistance during the setup phase. Uwe Parchatka is acknowledged for his contribution to the NOx data set. Marc Delmotte, Laurence Vialettes, and Olivier Laurent are acknowledged for helping with setting up the methane measurements. NW acknowledges funding by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 674911. We acknowledge the EMME-CARE project from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant agreement No. 856612), as well as matching co-funding by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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