Soil moisture strongly controls the uptake of atmospheric methane by limiting the diffusion of methane into the soil, resulting in a negative correlation between soil moisture and methane uptake rates under most non-drought conditions. However, little is known about the effect of water stress on methane uptake in temperate forests during severe droughts. We simulated extreme summer droughts by exclusion of 168 mm (2001) and 344 mm (2002) throughfall using three translucent roofs in a mixed deciduous forest at the Harvard Forest, Massachusetts, USA. The treatment significantly increased CH4 uptake during the first weeks of throughfall exclusion in 2001 and during most of the 2002 treatment period. Low summertime CH4 uptake rates were found only briefly in both control and exclusion plots during a natural late summer drought, when water contents below 0.15 g cm-3 may have caused water stress of methanotrophs in the A horizon. Because these soils are well drained, the exclusion treatment had little effect on A horizon water content between wetting events, and the effect of water stress was smaller and more brief than was the overall treatment effect on methane diffusion. Methane consumption rates were highest in the A horizon and showed a parabolic relationship between gravimetric water content and CH4 consumption, with maximum rate at 0.23 g H2O g-1 soil. On average, about 74% of atmospheric CH4 was consumed in the top 4-5 cm of the mineral soil. By contrast, little or no CH4 consumption occurred in the O horizon. Snow cover significantly reduced the uptake rate from December to March. Removal of snow enhanced CH4 uptake by about 700-1000%, resulting in uptake rates similar to those measured during the growing season. Soil temperatures had little effect on CH4 uptake as long as the mineral soil was not frozen, indicating strong substrate limitation of methanotrophs throughout the year. Our results suggest that the extension of snow periods may affect the annual rate of CH4 oxidation and that summer droughts may increase the soil CH4 sink of temperate forest soils. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.