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Low Methane Concentrations in Sediment along the Siberian Slope: Inference from Pore Water Geochemistry

Abstract

The Eastern Siberian Arctic Ocean (ESAO) is experiencing some of the fastest rates of climate warming. Additionally, the ESAO hosts 80% of the world's subsea permafrost, and presumably holds large amounts of methane in sediments as gas hydrate and free gas. Despite these vast stores of vulnerable carbon, the ESAO is sparingly explored. Here, we present pore water geochemistry results from cores taken during the SWERUS–C3 international expedition and along five transects. Four of these are along the slopes of Arlis Spur, Central East Siberia, Henrietta Island–Makarov Basin, and Eastern Lomonosov Ridge; one is along the shelf in Herald Trough.

Upward methane flux toward the seafloor, as inferred from dissolved sulfate and alkalinity profiles, is negligible on slopes the Arlis Spur, Central East Siberia, and Eastern Lomonosov Ridge. Methane flux from slopes near Henrietta Island and Makarov Basin ranged from 13.7 (367 m water depth) to 16.2 mmol/m2-kyr (964 m water depth). The highest flux on the slope, located at the intersection with Lomonosov Ridge, is 25.8 mmol/m2-kyr. In contrast to the generally low methane fluxes of the continental slope, the shelf sediments in Herald Trough have high upward methane fluxes, with measured rates up to 156.9 mmol/m2-kyr. These methane results are the first of their kind in this climatically sensitive region, and contradict previous assumptions regarding high methane flux rates along the slope.