Net exchanges of methane and carbon dioxide on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau from 1979 to 2100

Zhenong Jin, Qianlai Zhuang, Jin Sheng He, Xudong Zhu, Weimin Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that affects the global climate system. Knowledge about land-atmospheric CH4 exchanges on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) is insufficient. Using a coupled biogeochemistry model, this study analyzes the net exchanges of CH4 and CO2 over the QTP for the period of 1979-2100. Our simulations show that the region currently acts as a net CH4 source with 0.95 Tg CH4 y-1 emissions and 0.19 Tg CH4 y-1 soil uptake, and a photosynthesis C sink of 14.1 Tg C y-1. By accounting for the net CH4 emission and the net CO2 sequestration since 1979, the region was found to be initially a warming source until the 2010s with a positive instantaneous radiative forcing peak in the 1990s. In response to future climate change projected by multiple global climate models (GCMs) under four representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios, the regional source of CH4 to the atmosphere will increase by 15-77% at the end of this century. Net ecosystem production (NEP) will continually increase from the near neutral state to around 40 Tg C y-1 under all RCPs except RCP8.5. Spatially, CH4 emission or uptake will be noticeably enhanced under all RCPs over most of the QTP, while statistically significant NEP changes over a large-scale will only appear under RCP4.5 and RCP4.6 scenarios. The cumulative GHG fluxes since 1979 will exert a slight warming effect on the climate system until the 2030s, and will switch to a cooling effect thereafter. Overall, the total radiative forcing at the end of the 21st century is 0.25-0.35 W m-2, depending on the RCP scenario. Our study highlights the importance of accounting for both CH4 and CO2 in quantifying the regional GHG budget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 18 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is partially supported by funding to Q Z through an NSF project (DEB- #0919331), the NASA Land Use and Land Cover Change program (NASANNX09AI26G), the Department of Energy (DEFG02-08ER64599), and the NSF Division of Information & Intelligent Systems (NSF-1028291). Jin-Sheng He and Weiming Song are supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (grant number 2014CB954004) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 31270481 and 31025005).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • Tibetan Plateau
  • carbon dioxide
  • climate change
  • methane
  • terrestrial ecosystem model


Dive into the research topics of 'Net exchanges of methane and carbon dioxide on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau from 1979 to 2100'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this