Quantification of Methane Gas Flux and Bubble Fate on the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf Utilizing Calibrated Split-beam Echosounder Data

TitleQuantification of Methane Gas Flux and Bubble Fate on the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf Utilizing Calibrated Split-beam Echosounder Data
Publication TypeConference Abstract
AuthorsWeidner, E, Mayer, LA, Jakobsson, M, Chernykh, D, Ananiev, R, Weber, TC, Jerram, K, Mohammad, R, Semiltov, I
Conference Name2016 Fall Meeting, American Geological Union (AGU)
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA
Conference DatesDecember 12-16
Keywordsflux and bubble fate, methane gas, siberian arctic

On the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) subsea permafrost, shallow gas hydrates, and trapped free gas hold an estimated 1400 Gt of methane. Recent observations of methane bubble plumes and high concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column indicate methane release via ebullition. Methane gas released from the shallow ESAS (<50 m average depth) has high potential to be transported to the atmosphere.

To directly and quantitatively address the magnitude of methane flux and the fate of rising bubbles in the ESAS, methane seeps were mapped with a broadband split-beam echosounder as part of the Swedish-Russian-US Arctic Ocean Investigation of Climate-Cryosphere-Carbon Interactions program (SWERUS-C3). Acoustic measurements were made over a broad range of frequencies (16 to 29 kHz). The broad bandwidth provided excellent discrimination of individual targets in the water column, allowing for the identification of single bubbles. Absolute bubble target strength values were determined by compensating apparent target strength measurements for beam pattern effects via standard calibration techniques. The bubble size distribution of seeps with individual bubble signatures was determined by exploiting bubble target strength models over the broad range of frequencies. For denser seeps, with potential higher methane flux, bubble size distribution was determined via extrapolation from seeps in similar geomorphological settings. By coupling bubble size distributions with rise velocity measurements, which are made possible by split-beam target tracking, methane gas flux can be estimated.

Of the 56 identified seeps in the SWERUS data set, individual bubbles scatterers were identified in more than half (31) of the seeps. Preliminary bubble size distribution results indicate bubble radii range from 0.75 to 3.0 mm, with relatively constant bubble size distribution throughout the water column. Initial rise velocity observations indicate bubble rise velocity increases with decreasing depth, seemingly independent of bubble radius.