The amount of methane in the atmosphere is increasing. Is the seabed one of the sources for the greenhouse gas? To answer this question, CAGE is measuring methane from ocean to atmosphere, using some truly cool gadgets.
Text: Maja Sojtaric Feature photo: Stefan Buenz
The seabed releases huge amounts of methane to the ocean. We don´t know how much is reaching the atmosphere and whether it is one of the major sources for the greenhouse gas. CAGE led this summer a big research campaign, collecting methane measurements from seabed to ocean to atmosphere, in close collaboration with colleagues at Norwegian Institute for air research (NILU) and Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO).
Together they form MOCA-project, which is funded by the Norwegian Research Council. It applies advanced measurements and modeling to quantify the amount and present atmospheric impact of methane originating from hydrates. The project will also investigate potential future climate effects from destabilization of methane hydrate deposits in a warming climate.
Methane is stored as a hydrate, an icy substance, under the seabed. When this substance melts it releases methane bubbles into the water. The bubbles may get dissolved in the ocean, or they may reach the surface – depending on the water depth. The amount of gas that reaches the atmosphere is a mystery.
An impressive and successful flight campaign
The measurements started in mid-June, when UiTs research vessel Helmer Hanssen set out on a six-week long cruise to undertake marine and atmospheric measurements in regions of northwestern Svalbard.
CAGE had already placed the monitoring equipment on the seabed in this location, to measure ocean currents, temperature and methane emissions.
A research aircraft joined RV Helmer Hanssen during the first week of July, measuring variations in methane concentration in the atmosphere.
This is the first time at this location, that such air and sea measurements of methane were done simultaneously. The aircraft was impressively operated by colleagues from University of Cambridge, flying as low as 15 meters above the sea surface.
The preliminary results of the campaign are expected shortly.
Next flight campaign will take place in Russia: Siberian tundra, Kara sea and Salekhard.
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CAGE-director: Jürgen Mienert (email@example.com)
Project leader, MOCA: Cathrine Lund Myhre (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Team leader, CAGE: Benedicte Ferré ( email@example.com )