Dr Fiona O'Connor (Met Office)

Dr Fiona O'Connor, Met Office

Speaker: Fiona O’Connor

Title: The Role of Methane in the Earth System

Abstract: Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide in the present-day forcing of climate and has a significant role to play in climate mitigation and global-scale air quality. Using simulations from the Aerosol and Chemistry Model Intercomparison Project, the present-day climate forcing due to the change in methane concentration between the pre-industrial period and the present day will be presented. With a particular focus on the UK’s Earth System Model, UKESM1, the potential role of chemistry-aerosol-cloud interactions in methane’s climate forcing will be highlighted.

Despite methane’s importance, in current state-of-the-art Earth System Models, it is typically prescribed as a lower boundary condition following a prescribed historical or future pathway. Here, I will describe recent developments to the representation of a methane emissions-driven cycle in UKESM1, including interactive wetland emissions. This capability provides a modelling framework for quantifying climate forcings and/or climate responses that are more directly attributable to changes in methane emissions rather than concentrations. Using this novel capability, climate, air quality and human health impacts from idealised future methane emissions reductions and/or active methane removal will be presented.

Bio: Fiona joined the Met Office Hadley Centre in 2004, to work on the development of UKCA, a new community chemistry and aerosol model based on the Unified Model. UKCA is now becoming well established and forms an integral part of the Met Office Hadley Centre's Earth System model, HadGEM2-ES. More recently, Fiona has started to focus on methane, with a particular interest in natural sources of methane emissions, inter-annual variability in atmospheric methane, and potential feedbacks which may affect future atmospheric concentrations of methane.

In 2006, Fiona took a secondment from the Met Office Hadley Centre and worked at the Office of Climate Change, where she put together a science pack on climate change which was published and distributed to all members of Parliament and the House of Lords as part of the UK's Climate Change Bill. Prior to joining the Met Office Hadley Centre, she worked on tropospheric chemistry modelling as a post-doctoral research associate at Cambridge University. Before that, she did a PhD at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth using observations and modelling to study stratospheric dynamics.

Since 2012, Fiona has managed the Atmospheric Composition and Climate research group – with a focus on atmospheric composition model development and application with the Earth System. And in January 2022 Fiona became a Met Office Fellow.

Fiona also has a first class honours degree in Experimental Physics and an MSc in Environmental Chemistry from the National University of Ireland, Galway and Cork, respectively.