Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Detlev Helmig

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Darin Toohey


The purpose of this project is to evaluate hydrocarbon concentrations, their chemistry in the atmosphere, and the corresponding implications for arctic ecosystems. Recently, methane’s increasing threat as a greenhouse gas has warranted much research in the scientific field as global warming trends continue. A subject of significantly less research but perhaps of equal importance are ethane emissions, which are crucial to the understanding of methane’s growth. Though methane and ethane share anthropogenic sources, methane concentrations in the atmosphere vary due to biogenic sources specific to the chemical compound. Due to this constraint, co-measurement of methane and ethane is important because of the strong correlation between the two chemicals due to their shared anthropogenic sources. A significant upturn in methane growth without a corresponding increase in ethane may indicate releases of methane from biogenic sources such as melting permafrost. Recent studies have shown that ethane concentrations are decreasing worldwide, likely due to sequestration of anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions. However, methane concentrations are becoming a focus of concern for environmentalists.