Multidecadal variability of atmospheric methane, 1000-1800 C.E.

Logan E. Mitchell, Edward J. Brook, Todd Sowers, J. R. McConnell, Kendrick Taylor

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70 Scopus citations


We present a new high-precision, high-resolution record of atmospheric methane from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core covering 1000-1800 C.E., a time period known as the late preindustrial Holocene (LPIH). The results are consistent with previous measurements from the Law Dome ice core, the only other high-resolution record of methane for this time period, and confirm most of the observed variability. Multidecadal variability in methane concentrations throughout the LPIH is weakly correlated or uncorrelated with reconstructions of temperature and precipitation from a variety of geographic regions. Correlations with temperature are dominated by changes in Northern Hemisphere high latitude temperatures between 1400 and 1600 C.E. during the onset of the Little Ice Age. Times of war and plague when large population losses could have reduced anthropogenic emissions are coincident with short periods of decreasing global methane concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberG02007
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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