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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-1108
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-1108
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 19 Oct 2018

Research article | 19 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Permafrost Nitrous Oxide Emissions Observed on a Landscape Scale Using Airborne Eddy Covariance Method

Jordan Wilkerson1, Ronald Dobosy2,3, David S. Sayres4, Claire Healy5, Edward Dumas2,3, Bruce Baker2, and James G. Anderson1,4,5 Jordan Wilkerson et al.
  • 1Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 2Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, NOAA/ARL, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA
  • 3Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA
  • 4Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 5Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Abstract. The microbial by-product nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance, has conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions. This assumption has been questioned by recent in situ studies demonstrating that, in fact, some geologic features in permafrost may have elevated emissions comparable to those of tropical soils. These recent studies, however, along with every known in situ study focused on permafrost N2O fluxes, have used chambers to examine small areas (<50m2). Using the airborne eddy covariance technique, we made in situ N2O flux measurements from a low-flying aircraft spanning a much larger area: around 310km2. We observed a daily mean averaged over our flight campaign of 3.8 (2.2–4.7)mgN2Om−2d−1 with 90% confidence interval in parentheses. If these measurements are representative of the whole month, then the permafrost areas we observed emitted a total of around 0.04–0.09gm−2 for August, comparable to what is typically assumed to be the maximum yearly emissions for these regions.

Jordan Wilkerson et al.
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Short summary
As frozen soil called permafrost increasingly thaws over the years, scientists have put much effort into understanding how this may increase carbon emissions, which would exacerbate climate change. Our work supports the emerging view that these efforts should also include nitrous oxide, a more potent greenhouse gas. With a low-flying aircraft spanning thousands of acres of Alaskan permafrost, we observed average nitrous oxide emissions higher than typically assumed for regions like this.
As frozen soil called permafrost increasingly thaws over the years, scientists have put much...
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