Methane on Earth: Global Distribution, Processes, and Importance


Dr. Doris Meyerdierks (HWK) 


Prof. Dr. Michael J. Whiticar, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada, current HWK Fellow


  • Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bohrmann, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Research Faculty of the University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Edward J. Brook, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
  • Prof. Dr. Ralf Conrad, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany
  • Dr. Edward J. Dlugokencky, Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, USA
  • WD Dr. Marcus Elvert, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Research Faculty of the University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • Dr. Giuseppe Etiope, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Roma, Italy
  • Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Research Faculty of the University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Roland Menges, Institut für Wirtschaftswissenschaft, TU Clausthal, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Euan G. Nisbet, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, London, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Dr. Victoria J. Orphan, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vasilii V. Petrenko, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, USA
  • Dr. Martin Schoell, GasConsult International Inc., Fürth, Germany
  • Dr. Stefan Schwietzke, Environmental Defense Fund, Berlin, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Wallmann, GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung, Kiel, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Katey Walter Anthony, Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, USA




Methane is the most abundant organic molecule on Earth, estimated to be 5,000 to 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon (including the vast 5,000-10,000 GtC gas hydrate accumulations and ca. 600 GtC natural gas/shale gas deposits). This tiny molecule has great impacts on life on the planet and thus carries huge implications. In human terms, methane is still a major energy source (annually we consume ~3 GtC of natural gas, which is mostly CH4). Although presently it is used slightly less than oil or coal, it is increasing in utilization as a carbon-based fuel. Methane is also the third most important Greenhouse Gas (after water vapor and CO2), so changes to the atmospheric methane budget greatly and rapidly affects our radiative balance and hence climate change, today, in the future, and in the geologic past. Methane is also an important molecule for life on Earth and likely associated with the first microbial forms of life (Archaea) that evolved, perhaps earlier that 4 billion years ago. 

Aims and Products

This HWK Study Group is established to move methane science forward by assembling some of the leading specialists in the critical areas of methane science, including geochemistry, microbiology, climatology, energy and geoscience. The aim is to address the major aspects of methane on Earth, such as Methane formation, Methane destruction, Methane occurrences, or Methane importance to identify gaps, weaknesses, and uncertainties, but new aspects as well. With the urgency of climate change, the group will focus considerable attention to methane as a greenhouse gas. The results of the various discussions will lead to a collection of chapters that will be published in an open access eBook.


  • Kick-off: March 31 to April 03, 2019
  • 2nd Meeting scheduled May 11 to 13, 2020 – postponed due to Corona pandemic