Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
20 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 20 Mar 2013

Impact of an abrupt cooling event on interglacial methane emissions in northern peatlands

S. Zürcher, R. Spahni, F. Joos, M. Steinacher, and H. Fischer

Abstract. Rapid changes in atmospheric methane (CH4), temperature and precipitation are documented by Greenland ice core data both for glacial times (the so called Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events) as well as for a cooling event in the early Holocene (the 8.2 kyr event). The onsets of D-O warm events are paralleled by abrupt increases in CH4 by up to 250 ppb in a few decades. Vice versa, the 8.2 kyr event is accompanied by an intermittent decrease in CH4 of about 80 ppb over 150 yr. The abrupt CH4 changes are thought to mainly originate from source emission variations in tropical and boreal wet ecosystems, but complex process oriented bottom-up model estimates of the changes in these ecosystems during rapid climate changes are still missing. Here we present simulations of CH4 emissions from northern peatlands with the LPJ-Bern dynamic global vegetation model. The model represents CH4 production and oxidation in soils and transport by ebullition, through plant aerenchyma, and by diffusion. Parameters are tuned to represent site emission data as well as inversion-based estimates of northern wetland emissions. The model is forced with climate input data from freshwater hosing experiments using the NCAR CSM1.4 climate model to simulate an abrupt cooling event. A concentration reduction of ~10 ppb is simulated per degree K change of mean northern hemispheric surface temperature in peatlands. Peatland emissions are equally sensitive to both changes in temperature and in precipitation. If simulated changes are taken as an analogy to the 8.2 kyr event, boreal peatland emissions alone could only explain 23% of the 80 ppb decline in atmospheric methane concentration. This points to a significant contribution to source changes from low latitude and tropical wetlands to this event.

Final-revised paper