Articles | Volume 15, issue 15
Research article
01 Aug 2018
Research article |  | 01 Aug 2018

An assessment of natural methane fluxes simulated by the CLASS-CTEM model

Vivek K. Arora, Joe R. Melton, and David Plummer

Abstract. Natural methane emissions from wetlands and fire, and soil uptake of methane, simulated using the Canadian Land Surface Scheme and Canadian Terrestrial Ecosystem (CLASS-CTEM) modelling framework, over the historical 1850–2008 period, are assessed by using a one-box model of atmospheric methane burden. This one-box model also requires anthropogenic emissions and the methane sink in the atmosphere to simulate the historical evolution of global methane burden. For this purpose, global anthropogenic methane emissions for the period 1850–2008 were reconstructed based on the harmonized representative concentration pathway (RCP) and Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) data sets. The methane sink in the atmosphere is represented using bias-corrected methane lifetimes from the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model (CMAM). The resulting evolution of atmospheric methane concentration over the historical period compares reasonably well with observation-based estimates (correlation  =  0.99, root mean square error  =  35 ppb). The modelled natural emissions are also assessed using an inverse procedure where the methane lifetimes required to reproduce the observed year-to-year increase in atmospheric methane burden are calculated based upon the specified global anthropogenic and modelled natural emissions that we have used here. These calculated methane lifetimes over the historical period fall within the uncertainty range of observation-based estimates. The present-day (2000–2008) values of modelled methane emissions from wetlands (169 Tg CH4 yr−1) and fire (27 Tg CH4 yr−1), methane uptake by soil (29 Tg CH4 yr−1), and the budget terms associated with overall anthropogenic and natural emissions are consistent with estimates reported in a recent global methane budget that is based on top-down approaches constrained by observed atmospheric methane burden. The modelled wetland emissions increase over the historical period in response to both increases in precipitation and in atmospheric CO2 concentration. This increase in wetland emissions over the historical period yields evolution of the atmospheric methane concentration that compares better with observation-based values than the case when wetland emissions are held constant over the historical period.

Short summary
Earth system models (ESMs) project future changes in climate in response to changes in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). However, before this can be achieved the natural fluxes of a given GHG must also be modelled. This paper evaluates the natural methane fluxes simulated by the CLASS-CTEM model (which is the land component of the Canadian ESM) against observations to show that the simulated methane emissions from wetlands and fires, and soil uptake of methane are realistic.
Final-revised paper