Acoustic observations and characterization of oceanic methane gas bubbles rising from the seabed

TitleAcoustic observations and characterization of oceanic methane gas bubbles rising from the seabed
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsWeber, TC
JournalThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Date PublishedNovember 18
PublisherAcoustical Society of America

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, can be found escaping the ocean seabed as gas bubbles in a wide range of geographic locations and water depths. As they rise toward the sea surface, methane gas bubbles undergo a complicated evolution. During ascent, methane gas is transferred into aqueous solution and other dissolved gases are transferred into the bubble. The gas transfer rate—a key factor in determining the ultimate fate of the methane—may be inhibited by hydrate formation in deep, cold water, or potentially by surfactants and adsorbed particulates at any depth. The presence of methane gas bubbles from both natural and anthropogenic sources is often identified using acoustic echo sounders. Beyond simple detection, acoustic techniques can be used to characterize methane bubbles in several ways. For example, narrow-band observations of seep target strength can be used with knowledge of bubble size distributions to estimate methane flux. Similar acoustic observations can be coupled with bubble-evolution models to constrain the fate of bubbles as they rise. Broadband techniques offer the potential to directly observe bubble size and rise speed, and consequently depth-dependent gas flux. The application of these and other techniques for detecting and characterizing methane gas-bubble seeps will be discussed.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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