Towards more consistent estimates of methane fluxes by the eddy covariance technique

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Methane (CH4) is a strong greenhouse gas and its surface mixing ratio has increased by 150 % since the pre-industrial era. The aggregated atmospheric CH4 budget is relatively well-constrained, however the contribution of different sources/sinks to the overall budget is not. The exchange of matter and energy between the atmosphere and different ecosystems can be studied with eddy covariance (EC) technique. Recently, instrumentation suitable for EC measurements of CH4 fluxes have become available, however, measurement and data processing methodologies are yet to be standardised. By including instrument and software intercomparisons, this thesis is aimed to advance the harmonisation of EC CH4 flux measurement and data processing methodologies. Data from two sites are utilized: Siikaneva fen in Southern Finland and Cabauw agricultural peatland in the Netherlands.

Improvement in CH4 instrumentation was exemplified in this work by the decrease in the signal noise: the new CH4 gas analysers showed approximately 10-times lower noise levels than the older models. Cumulative CH4 emissions agreed within 7 % which suggests that there was no significant bias between the instruments. Another possible source of uncertainty is EC data processing. Two widely used EC data processing programs computed comparable CH4 fluxes for different instrument and data processing combinations and thus the data processing routines were implemented similarly. The significance of careful EC data processing was demonstrated by the fact that occasionally the flux corrections contributed over 100 % of the measured signal. EC CH4 fluxes showed high spatial variability in an agricultural peatland ecosystem, considerably higher than the other fluxes. The variability hinders the scalability of EC CH4 fluxes to larger spatial scales and scaling is needed if the CH4 balance of the whole landscape is evaluated. Therefore, the usability of tall flux tower to measure the landscape fluxes directly was also explored. While the results from this exercise were encouraging, the morning and evening transition periods proved to be difficult for the tall flux tower system.

This thesis sets a benchmark for the precision and accuracy of EC CH4 data by evaluating instrumentation and data processing tools. Further, the thesis raises awareness of possible problems when upscaling short tower EC CH4 measurements due to flux variability within the landscape. Finally, the findings can be used by researches in the future to evaluate the reliability of their EC CH4 data and thus the thesis contributes to the harmonisation of EC CH4 methodologies.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-7091-44-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-7091-45-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 114 Physical sciences
  • Micrometeorology
  • eddy covariance
  • Methane

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