Use of hydraulic head to estimate volumetric gas content and ebullition flux in northern peatlands

Donald O. Rosenberry, Paul H. Glaser, Donald I. Siegel, Edwin P. Weeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Hydraulic head was overpressured at middepth in a 4.2-m thick raised bog in the Glacial Lake Agassiz peatlands of northern Minnesota, and fluctuated in response to atmospheric pressure. Barometric efficiency (BE), determined by calculating ratios of change in hydraulic head to change in atmospheric pressure, ranged from 0.05 to 0.15 during July through November of both 1997 and 1998. The overpressuring and a BE response were caused by free-phase gas contained primarily in the center of the peat column between two or more semielastic, semiconfining layers of more competent peat. Two methods were used to determine the volume of gas bubbles contained in the peat, one using the degree of overpressuring in the middepth of the peat, and the other relating BE to specific yield of the shallow peat. The volume of gas calculated from the overpressuring method averaged 9%, assuming that the gas was distributed over a 2-m thick overpressured interval. The volume of gas using the BE method averaged 13%. Temporal changes in overpressuring and in BE indicate that the volume of gaseous-phase gas also changed with time, most likely because of rapid degassing (ebullition) that allowed sudden loss of gas to the atmosphere. Estimates of gas released during the largest ebullition events ranged from 0.3 to 0.7 mol m-2 d-1. These ebullition events may contribute a significant source of methane and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere that has so far largely gone unmeasured by gas-flux chambers or tower-mounted sensors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)SBH131-SBH1310
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Barometric efficiency
  • Ebullition
  • Gas generation
  • Ground water
  • Peatlands
  • Piezometer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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