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Glacial/interglacial wetland, biomass burning, and geologic methane emissions constrained by dual stable isotopic CH 4 ice core records

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bock Michael, Schmitt Jochen, Beck Jonas, Seth Barbara, Chappellaz Jérôme, Fischer Hubertus,
Project iCEP - Climate and Environmental Physics: Innovation in ice core science
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume (Issue) 114(29)
Page(s) E5778 - E5786
Title of proceedings Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1613883114

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


Atmospheric methane (CH4) records reconstructed from polar ice cores represent an integrated view on processes predominantly taking place in the terrestrial biogeosphere. Here, we present dual stable isotopic methane records [δ13CH4 and δD(CH4)] from four Antarctic ice cores, which provide improved constraints on past changes in natural methane sources. Our isotope data show that tropical wetlands and seasonally inundated floodplains are most likely the controlling sources of atmospheric methane variations for the current and two older interglacials and their preceding glacial maxima. The changes in these sources are steered by variations in temperature, precipitation, and the water table as modulated by insolation, (local) sea level, and monsoon intensity. Based on our δD(CH4) constraint, it seems that geologic emissions of methane may play a steady but only minor role in atmospheric CH4 changes and that the glacial budget is not dominated by these sources. Superimposed on the glacial/interglacial variations is a marked difference in both isotope records, with systematically higher values during the last 25,000 y compared with older time periods. This shift cannot be explained by climatic changes. Rather, our isotopic methane budget points to a marked increase in fire activity, possibly caused by biome changes and accumulation of fuel related to the late Pleistocene megafauna extinction, which took place in the course of the last glacial.