Large areas of the Earth’s surface are blanketed in water in solid form, creating a widespread and dynamic Earth coating called the cryosphere. The cryosphere seals enormous amounts of carbon under the ice. If this carbon escapes into the atmosphere, it has the potential to dramatically affect global climate systems. In his PhD thesis entitled ‘Cryosphere-controlled methane release throughout the last glacial cycle’, Pavel Serov investigates how the expansion and retraction of the cryosphere in the Barents Sea and the South Kara Sea over the last 35,000 years has affected the release of methane gas from beneath the ice.
This study has determined that the South Kara Sea shelf was affected by warming temperatures, releasing large amounts of methane gas from the permafrost and from unique ice-like structures called methane hydrates. Due to various natural phenomena that occurred some 20,000 years ago, the Barents Sea Shelf also accumulated unusually large numbers of these methane hydrates, containing high amounts of methane gas distributed over a large area. When released, the methane escaped quite violently, creating various types of craters and mounds in the seabed. Such studies may be crucial in understanding the potential effects and magnitude of future methane release due to the ongoing retreat of the cryosphere in Greenland and Antarctica.
Serov successfully defended his thesis on December 4th, 2018 at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, which was funded by the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment, and Climate (CAGE).