Records of the δ13C of atmospheric CH4 over the last 2 centuries as recorded in Antarctic snow and ice

Todd Sowers, Sophie Bernard, Olivier Aballain, Jérôme Chappellaz, Jean Marc Barnola, Thomas Marik

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42 Scopus citations


Methane is one of the important greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere today. The increased loading over the past 2 centuries is thought to be the result of increased anthropogenic emissions. Here we present records of the δ13C of CH4 in firn air from the South Pole and in trapped bubbles in a short ice core from Siple Dome, Antarctica, that help constrain historical emissions of various sources throughout the last 2 centuries. Using two firn air samplings in 1995 and 2001 we calculate that δ 13CH4 has increased by an average of 0.06 ± 0.02‰/yr over the 6 years between samplings. Our ice core results suggest the δ13C of atmospheric CH4 has increased by 1.8 ± 0.2‰ between 1820 A.D. and 2001 A.D. The δ13CH4 changes in both data sets are the result of an increase in the relative proportion of CH4 sources with elevated 13C/12C isotope ratios. One explanation for observed trends involves a 16 Tg/yr increase in CH4 emissions associated with biomass burning over the past 2 centuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberGB2002
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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