Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
02 Nov 2009
 | 02 Nov 2009

The consumption of atmospheric methane by soil in a simulated future climate

C. L. Curry

Abstract. A recently developed model for the consumption of atmospheric methane by soil (Curry, 2007) is used to investigate the global magnitude and distribution of methane uptake in a simulated future climate. In addition to solving the one-dimensional diffusion-reaction equation, the model includes a parameterization of biological CH4 oxidation that is sensitive to soil temperature and moisture content, along with specified reduction factors for land cultivation and wetland fractional coverage. Under the SRES emission scenario A1B, the model projects an 8% increase in the global annual mean CH4 soil sink by 2100, over and above the 15% increase expected from increased CH4 concentration alone. While the largest absolute increases occur in cool temperate and subtropical forest ecosystems, the largest relative increases in consumption (>40%) are seen in the boreal forest, tundra and polar desert environments of the high northern latitudes. Methane uptake at mid- to high northern latitudes increases year-round in 2100, with a 68% increase over present-day values in June. This increase is primarily due to enhanced soil diffusivity resulting from lower soil moisture produced by increased evaporation and reduced snow cover. At lower latitudes, uptake is enhanced mainly by elevated soil temperatures and/or reduced soil moisture stress, with the dominant influence determined by the local climate.

Final-revised paper