Future Climate Change will Lead to Greater Greenhouse Gas Release from Boreal and Arctic Wetlands

Scot Miller, Harvard University

Boreal and arctic wetlands release a substantial quantity of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The magnitude of this greenhouse gas source could change dramatically in future years as temperatures and precipitation patterns change. Unfortunately, current estimates of methane emissions from wetlands differ by up to a factor of 10 and existing models of methane from wetlands match poorly against measurements. These shortfalls reflect a poor understanding of the processes that affect methane release and make it difficult to predict how future climate change will affect this source. This study combines a regional atmospheric model, a suite of methane measurements from North America and a novel statistical toolset. The model, when constrained to methane measurements, provides the best estimate to date of boreal and arctic methane sources and suggests a predictive model for estimating future emissions. Boreal and arctic wetlands will likely release much more methane in the future in a warmer climate, a positive feedback loop that will further exacerbate climate change.

Abstract Author(s): S.M. Miller, T.C. Havice, D.E.J. Worthy, E.A. Kort, A.E. Andrews, E.J. Dlugokencky, J.O. Kaplan, A.M. Michalak, and S.C. Wofsy