Autonomous methane seep site monitoring offshore western Svalbard: hourly to seasonal variability and associated oceanographic parameters
AuthorDølven, Knut Ola; Ferré, Benedicte; Silyakova, Anna; Jansson, Pär; Linke, Peter; Moser, Manuel
Improved quantification techniques of natural sources are needed to explain variations in atmospheric methane. In polar regions, high uncertainties in current estimates of methane release from the seabed remain. We present unique 10- and 3-month time series of bottom water measurements of physical and chemical parameters from two autonomous ocean observatories deployed at separate intense seabed methane seep sites (91 and 246 m depth) offshore western Svalbard from 2015 to 2016. Results show high short-term (100–1000 nmol L−1 within hours) and seasonal variation, as well as higher (2–7 times) methane concentrations compared to previous measurements. Rapid variability is explained by uneven distribution of seepage and changing ocean current directions. No overt influence of tidal hydrostatic pressure or water temperature variations on methane concentration was observed, but an observed negative correlation with temperature at the 246 m site fits with hypothesized seasonal blocking of lateral methane pathways in the sediments. Negative correlation between bottom water methane concentration (and variability) and wind forcing, concomitant with signs of weaker water column stratification, indicates increased potential for methane release to the atmosphere in fall and winter. We present new information about short- and long-term methane variability and provide a preliminary constraint on the uncertainties that arise in methane inventory estimates from this variability.