Faults, tectonic stress, and fluid flow contribute to a unique methane system in an Arctic underwater mountain range
The Svyatogor Ridge is an underwater site featuring an unusual gas hydrate system located alongside a divergent plate boundary, an area where two tectonic plates move away from each other to allow for new crust development. Most gas hydrate systems are fueled by prehistoric organic matter, but the Svyatogor Ridge gas hydrate system is thought to have originated without such matter. In her PhD thesis, Kate Waghorn investigates how methane with non-biological origins could be generated, integrating the study of tectonics, geology and fluid migration pathways to explore the linkage between deep crustal fluid processes and shallow subsurface gas hydrate systems.
This study has demonstrated the underlying connection between shallow and deep processes on the Svyatogor Ridge. Information about past tectonic stress regimes, gathered with high-resolution 3D seismic technology, has provided insight into some characteristic anomalies of the gas hydrate system. Geophysical evidence suggests that fluid migrates through faults which reach down to the Earth’s mantle, and it is possible these faults are also sources of non-biological methane production. Accordingly to further geophysical evidence, transform faults (where two tectonic plates slide against one another) as fluid migration pathways may hold a greater importance than previously predicted.
Kate defended her thesis on June 13th, 2019 at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. Her PhD was funded by the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE).