Atmospheric methane variability through the Last Glacial Maximum and deglaciation mainly controlled by tropical sources

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Ben Riddell-Young
  • Julia Rosen
  • Edward Brook
  • Christo Buizert
  • Kaden Martin
  • James Lee
  • Jon Edwards
  • Michaela Mühl
  • Jochen Schmitt
  • Hubertus Fischer
  • Blunier, Thomas

Constraining the causes of past atmospheric methane variability is important for understanding links between methane and climate. Abrupt methane changes during the last deglaciation have been intensely studied for this purpose, but the relative importance of high-latitude and tropical sources remains poorly constrained. The methane interpolar concentration difference reflects past geographic emission variability, but existing records suffered from subtle but considerable methane production during analysis. Here, we report an ice-core-derived interpolar difference record covering the Last Glacial Maximum and deglaciation, with substantially improved temporal resolution, chronology and a critical correction for methane production in samples from Greenland. Using box models to infer latitudinal source changes, we show that tropical sources dominated abrupt methane variability of the deglaciation, highlighting their sensitivity to abrupt climate change and rapidly shifting tropical rainfall patterns. Northern extratropical emissions began increasing ~16,000 years ago, probably through wetland expansion and/or permafrost degradation induced by high-latitude warming, and contributed at most 25 Tg yr−1 (45% of the total emission increase) to the abrupt methane rise that coincided with rapid northern warming at the onset of the Bølling–Allerød interval. These constraints on deglacial climate–methane cycle interactions can improve the understanding of possible present and future feedbacks.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1174-1180
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ID: 390293222