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

Zürcher, Sibylle Claudia; Spahni, Renato; Joos, Fortunat; Steinacher, Marco; Fischer, Hubertus (2013). Impact of an abrupt cooling event on interglacial methane emissions in northern peatlands. Biogeosciences, 10(3), pp. 1963-1981. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/bg-10-1963-2013

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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.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Zürcher, Sibylle Claudia; Spahni, Renato; Joos, Fortunat; Steinacher, Marco and Fischer, Hubertus


500 Science > 530 Physics




Copernicus Publications




Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

04 Jul 2014 14:47

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:31

Publisher DOI:





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