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Keywords:

  • greenhouse gases;
  • methane emissions

[1] By comparison of the methane mixing ratio and the carbon isotope ratio (δ13CCH4) in Arctic air with regional background, the incremental input of CH4 in an air parcel and the source δ13CCH4 signature can be determined. Using this technique the bulk Arctic CH4 source signature of air arriving at Spitsbergen in late summer 2008 and 2009 was found to be −68‰, indicative of the dominance of a biogenic CH4 source. This is close to the source signature of CH4 emissions from boreal wetlands. In spring, when wetland was frozen, the CH4 source signature was more enriched in 13C at −53 ± 6‰ with air mass back trajectories indicating a large influence from gas field emissions in the Ob River region. Emissions of CH4 to the water column from the seabed on the Spitsbergen continental slope are occurring but none has yet been detected reaching the atmosphere. The measurements illustrate the significance of wetland emissions. Potentially, these may respond quickly and powerfully to meteorological variations and to sustained climate warming.