Satellite Microwave Detection of Boreal-Arctic Wetland Inundation Changes and Their Impact on Regional Methane Emission Estimates

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Jennifer D Watts, NTSG, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, United States, John S Kimball, The University of Montana, Flathead Lake Biological Station, Polson, MT, United States and Annett Bartsch, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
Surface water inundation strongly regulates land-atmosphere energy and carbon exchange in northern environments. However, the dynamic nature of inundation in boreal-Arctic landscapes, and the impact of changing surface water extent on wetland methane (CH4) emissions, is not well understood. We examine recent (2003-2011) changes and spatiotemporal variability in surface inundation across high latitude wetland regions (> 45 deg. N) using passive microwave remote sensing retrievals of fractional open water extent (Fw) derived from Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) 18.7 and 23.8 GHz brightness temperatures. The daily Fw retrievals are sensitive to sub-grid scale (~25-km resolution) open water area (e.g. lakes and emergent vegetation), and are insensitive to solar illumination and atmosphere contamination effects. We also explore the potential implications of surface Fw variability on high latitude methane emissions using a remote sensing data driven model sensitivity analysis. Our results show widespread surface wetting across the Arctic continuous permafrost zone, which increased model simulated high latitude methane emissions by 0.56 Tg CH4 yr-1 relative to the 2003-2011 mean. This increase was largely offset (-0.38 Tg CH4 yr-1) by drying in boreal Alaska, Canada and western Eurasia. We also find that accounting for dynamic Fw variability in model simulations may significantly lower regional methane emission budgets. These findings accentuate the need for frequent satellite remote sensing driven Fw monitoring across the high latitude systems, to better assess regional sensitivities to climate change. An extended Fw record using AMSR2 data and enhanced (3-9 km) resolution L-band active/passive microwave retrievals from the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, are expected to improve understanding of regional surface water trends and variability, and reduce uncertainty in boreal-Arctic wetland emission estimates.