A global climate model study of CH4 emissions during the Holocene and glacial-interglacial transitions constrained by ice core data
Ice core records show atmospheric methane mixing ratio and interpolar gradient varying with climate. Changes in wetland sources have been implicated as the basis for this observed variation in the record, but more recently, modeling studies suggest that changes in the CH4 sink resulting from changes in sea surface temperature (SST) and emissions of other volatile organic carbon (VOC) compounds by vegetation must also be considered. We use the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) General Circulation Model (GCM) with the GISS Tropospheric Chemistry Model to study the response of the methane mixing ratio to source changes during the Holocene and also to a changing chemical sink during glacial-interglacial transitions. We combine model results with ice core data to demonstrate a method that provides constraints on changes in northern and tropical methane sources. Results show that within the Holocene, changes in the atmospheric methane mixing ratio and latitudinal gradient are not linear with respect to changing methane emissions. Tropical and northern emissions varied from preindustrial levels by as much as 38% and 15%, respectively, within the Holocene. At glacial-interglacial transitions the methane mixing ratio is sensitive to changes in both VOC and tropical methane emissions and the sensitivity also depends strongly on the assumed SST shift. Our findings suggest that changes in the ice core methane record are likely the result of changes in both the source and the sink. Changes in the sink become especially important when changes in methane mixing ratio and/or climate are large. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.
Harder, SL; Shindell, DT; Schmidt, GA; Brook, EJ
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