Constructing Paleoatmospheric Records of the Isotopic Composition of Methane and Nitrous Oxide

  • Sowers, Todd Anthony (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This award is for support for a program to reconstruct records of the isotopic composition of paleoatmospheric methane and nitrous oxide covering the last 200,000 years. High resolution measurements of the carbon-13 isotopic composition of methane from shallow ice cores will help to determine the relative contributions of biogenic (wetlands, rice fields and ruminants) and abiogenic (biomass burning and natural gas) methane emissions which have caused the concentrations of this gas to increase at an exponential rate during the anthropogenic period. Isotopic data on methane and nitrous oxide over glacial/interglacial timescales will help determine the underlying cause of the large concentration variations that are known to occur. This project will make use of a new generation mass spectrometer which is capable of generating precise isotopic information on nanomolar quantities of methane and nitrous oxide, which means that samples can be 1000 times smaller than those needed for a standard isotope ratio instrument. The primary objective of the work is to further our understanding of the biogeochemical cycles of these two greenhouse gases throughout the anthropogenic period as well as over glacial interglacial timescales.

Effective start/end date4/1/963/31/00


  • National Science Foundation: $472,107.00


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