Observing the Arctic Carbon Feedback: Regional scale methane flux measurements over the Alaskan North Slope using airplane flux observations and in situ measurements of δ13CH4.
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 09:45
2006 (Moscone West)
One of the most powerful positive feedback mechanisms to anthropogenic climate change postulated is the increase in carbon emissions from polar-regions. Warmer temperatures at the poles is predicted to increase the rate of methanogensesis in thawing permafrost soils as well as destabilize the network of arctic marine and terrestrial methane hydrates. Recent estimates put the quantity of organic carbon stored in soils in the northern permafrost zone around 1,700 Pg of C, which is well in excess of the maximum carbon emissions necessary to limit global average temperature increase to only 2 C° (260-410 Pg of C between 2011 and 2100 as CO2). However, many climate models used to forecast changes in average global temperature and inform policy decisions do not take into account arctic carbon feedback. This is largely due in part to the daunting observational challenge presented by observing methane fluxes in the Arctic. An ideal measurement system must be able to distinguish between biological and anthropogenic methane sources, have the ability to cover large spatial ranges, and have the sensitivity to distinguish changes from season to season, and year to year. The FOCAL platform has been engineered to address these challenges and help bridge the gap in spatial coverage between ground based and inverse modelling studies. It consists of a small aircraft equipped with the best atmospheric turbulence (BAT) probe, and gas sensors for in situ measurements of CH4, CO2, δ13CH4, δ13CO2 to make regional scale surface eddy-covariance flux measurements of methane and carbon dioxide as well as their stable isotopologues. We will present data from the initial FOCAL flight series in August 2013 based out of Deadhorse, AK, including CH4 concentration and running flux data, as well as in situ δ13CH4 observations to gain mechanistic insight. With the FOCAL platform we were able to dramatically extend regional coverage of methane flux observations beyond what can normally be observe with tower flux measurements, and improve our understanding of the size and mechanism of the arctic contribution to the global carbon budget.