Evidence for a link between climate and northern wetland methane emissions

  • Worthy D
  • Levin I
  • Hopper F
 et al. 
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Abstract

Wetlands are an important source of atmospheric methane (CH4), but the strength of this source and its sensitivity to potential changes in climate are still uncertain. In this study, continuous measurements from 1990 to 1998 of atmospheric CH4 from the Canadian observational sites at Fraserdale (49ø53'N 81ø34'W) and Alert (82ø27'N 62ø31'W) are used to estimate CH4 emissions from the Hudson Bay Lowland (HBL), a 320,000 km 2 semicontinuous wetland region in central Canada. The HBL comprises -10% of the total area of northern wetlands. A conceptually simple approach was used to calculate the methane emission flux using the CH 4 concentration difference between Alert and Fraserdale, the residence time of the air mass over the HBL, and the mixing height of the convective boundary layer. Emission rates estimated using this approach for 1990 compare well with empirical aircraft and tower flux measurements made within the HBL during the same time period, thus indicating that the methodology used is reasonable. Annual CH 4 emission rates range from 0.23 to 0.50 Tg CH 4 yr -• and are much lower than many empirical flux measurements observed at other northern wetland sites. A seasonal temperature sensitivity with a Q•0 of about 4 was found. Moreover, the observed interannual variations in emissions are well correlated to variations in annual air temperatures corresponding to a sensitivity of Q10 • 7. That is, a 10øC change in annual temperature would result in a sevenfold change in wetland emissions which is much larger than Q10 values used in current global CH 4 models (typically Q•0 • 1.5). Our findings suggest that northern wetland emissions are probably overestimated to date but may increase significantly due to predicted global warming. 1.

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Authors

  • Douglas E.J. Worthy

  • Ingeborg Levin

  • Fred Hopper

  • Michele K. Ernst

  • Neil B.A. Trivett

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