Minor methane emissions from an Alpine hydropower reservoir based on monitoring of diel and seasonal variability
We monitored CH4 emissions during the ice-free period of an Alpine hydropower reservoir in the Swiss Alps, Lake Klöntal, to investigate mechanisms responsible for CH4 variability and to estimate overall emissions to the atmosphere. A floating eddy-covariance platform yielded total CH4 and CO2 emission rates at high temporal resolution, while hydroacoustic surveys provided no indication of CH4 ebullition. Higher CH4 fluxes (2.9 ± 0.1 mg CH4 per m2 per day) occurred during the day when surface water temperatures were warmer and wind speeds higher than at night. Piston velocity estimates (k600) showed an upper limit at high wind speeds that may be more generally valid also for other lakes and reservoirs with limited CH4 dissolved in the water body: above 2.0 m s−1 a further increase in wind speed did not lead to higher CH4 fluxes, because under such conditions it is not the turbulent mixing and transport that limits effluxes, but the resupply of CH4 to the lake surface. Increasing CH4 fluxes during the warm season showed a clear spatial gradient once the reservoir started to fill up and flood additional surface area. The warm period contributed 27% of the total CH4 emissions (2.6 t CH4 per year) estimated for the full year and CH4 accounted for 63% of carbonic greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the average CH4 emissions (1.7 to 2.2 mg CH4 per m2 per day determined independently from surface water samplings and eddy covariance, respectively) were small compared to most tropical and some temperate reservoirs. The resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in CO2-equivalents revealed that electricity produced in the Lake Klöntal power plant was relatively climate-friendly with a low GHG-to-power output ratio of 1.24 kg CO2,eq per MW h compared to 6.5 and 8.1 kg CO2,eq per MW h associated with the operation of solar photovoltaics and wind energy, respectively, or about 980 kg CO2,eq per MW h for coal-fired power plants.