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Title: Final Scientific/Technical Report: Characterizing the Response of the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate Reservoir to Bottom Water Warming Along the Upper Continental Slope

Abstract

The objective of this project is to understand the response of the WA margin gas hydrate system to contemporary warming of bottom water along the upper continental slope. Through pre-cruise analysis and modeling of archive and recent geophysical and oceanographic data, we (1) inventoried bottom simulating reflectors along the WA margin and defined the upper limit of gas hydrate stability, (2) refined margin-wide estimates of heat flow and geothermal gradients, (3) characterized decadal scale temporal variations of bottom water temperatures at the upper continental slope of the Washington margin, and (4) used numerical simulations to provide quantitative estimates of how the shallow boundary of methane hydrate stability responds to modern environmental change. These pre-cruise results provided the context for a systematic geophysical and geochemical survey of methane seepage along the upper continental slope from 48° to 46°N during a 10-day field program on the R/V Thompson from October 10-19, 2014. This systematic inventory of methane emissions along this climate-sensitive margin corridor and comprehensive sediment and water column sampling program provided data and samples for Phase 3 of this project that focused on determining fluid and methane sources (deep-source vs. shallow; microbial, thermogenic, gas hydrate dissociation) within the sediment, and howmore » they relate to contemporary intermediate water warming. During the 2014 research expedition, we sampled nine seep sites between ~470 and 520 m water depth, within the zone of predicted methane hydrate retreat over the past 40 years. We imaged 22 bubble plumes with heights commonly rising to ~300 meters below sea level with one reaching near the sea surface. We collected 22 gravity cores and 20 CTD/hydrocasts from the 9 seeps and at background locations (no acoustic evidence of seepage) within the depth interval of predicted downslope retreat of the methane hydrate stability zone. Approximately 300 pore water samples were extracted from the gravity cores, and the pore water was analyzed for a comprehensive suite of solutes, gases, and stable isotope ratios. This comprehensive geochemical dataset was used to characterize the fluid and gas source(s) at each of the seep sites surveyed. The primary results of this project are: 1) Bottom simulating reflector-derived heat flow values decrease from 95 mW/m2 10 km east of the deformation front to ~60 mW/m2 60 km landward of the deformation front, with anomalously low values of ~25 mW/m2 on a prominent mid-margin terrace off central Washington. 2) The temperature of the incoming sediment/ocean crust interface at the deformation front ranges between 164-179 oC off central Washington, and the 350 oC isotherm at the top of the subducting ocean crust occurs 95 km landward of the deformation front. Differences between BSR-derived heat flow and modeled conductive heat flow suggest mean upward fluid flow rates of 0.4 cm/yr across the margin, with local regions (e.g. fault zones) exhibiting fluid flow rates up to 3.5 cm/yr. 3) A compilation of 2122 high-resolution CTD, glider, and Argo float temperature profiles spanning the upper continental slope of the Washington margin from the years 1968 to 2013 show a long-term warming trend that ranges from 0.006-0.008 oC/yr. Based on this long-term bottom water warming, we developed a 2-D thermal model to simulate the change in sediment temperature distribution over this period, along with the downslope retreat of the methane hydrate stability field. Over the 43 years of the simulation, the thermal disturbance propagated 30 m into the sediment column, causing the base of the methane hydrate stability field to shoal ~13 m and to move ~1 km downslope. 4) A preliminary analysis of seafloor observations and mid-water column acoustic data to detect bubble plumes was used to characterize the depth distribution of seeps along the Cascadia margin. These results indicate high bubble plume densities along the continental shelf at water depths <180 m and at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability along the Washington margin. 5) The majority of the seeps cored during the 2014 research expedition on the R/V Thompson contained abundant authigenic carbonate indicating that they are locations of long-lived seepage rather than emergent seep systems related to methane hydrate dissociation. Despite the evidence for enhanced methane seepage at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability along the Washington margin, we found no unequivocal evidence for active methane hydrate dissociation as a source of fluid and gas at the seeps surveyed. The pore fluid and bottom water chemistry shows that the seeps are fed by a variety of fluid and methane sources, but that methane hydrate dissociation, if occurring, is not widespread and is only a minor source (below the detection limit of our methods). Collectively, these results provide a significant advance in our understanding of the thermal structure of the Cascadia subduction zone and the fluid and methane sources feeding seeps along the upper continental slope of the Washington-sector of the Cascadia margin. Though we did not find unequivocal evidence for methane hydrate dissociation as a source of water and methane at the upper pressure-temperature limit of methane hydrate stability at present, continued warming of North Pacific Intermediate Water in the future has the potential to impact the methane hydrate reservoir in sediments at greater depths along the slope. Thus, this study provides a strong foundation and the necessary characterization of the background state of seepage at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability for future investigations of this important process.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [1]
  1. Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE)
OSTI Identifier:
1408239
Report Number(s):
DOE-Washington-FE13998
DOE Contract Number:  
FE0013998
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; methane hydrates; gas hydrates; fluid flow

Citation Formats

Solomon, Evan A., Johnson, H. Paul, Salmi, Marie, and Whorley, Theresa. Final Scientific/Technical Report: Characterizing the Response of the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate Reservoir to Bottom Water Warming Along the Upper Continental Slope. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1408239.
Solomon, Evan A., Johnson, H. Paul, Salmi, Marie, & Whorley, Theresa. Final Scientific/Technical Report: Characterizing the Response of the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate Reservoir to Bottom Water Warming Along the Upper Continental Slope. United States. doi:10.2172/1408239.
Solomon, Evan A., Johnson, H. Paul, Salmi, Marie, and Whorley, Theresa. Fri . "Final Scientific/Technical Report: Characterizing the Response of the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate Reservoir to Bottom Water Warming Along the Upper Continental Slope". United States. doi:10.2172/1408239. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1408239.
@article{osti_1408239,
title = {Final Scientific/Technical Report: Characterizing the Response of the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate Reservoir to Bottom Water Warming Along the Upper Continental Slope},
author = {Solomon, Evan A. and Johnson, H. Paul and Salmi, Marie and Whorley, Theresa},
abstractNote = {The objective of this project is to understand the response of the WA margin gas hydrate system to contemporary warming of bottom water along the upper continental slope. Through pre-cruise analysis and modeling of archive and recent geophysical and oceanographic data, we (1) inventoried bottom simulating reflectors along the WA margin and defined the upper limit of gas hydrate stability, (2) refined margin-wide estimates of heat flow and geothermal gradients, (3) characterized decadal scale temporal variations of bottom water temperatures at the upper continental slope of the Washington margin, and (4) used numerical simulations to provide quantitative estimates of how the shallow boundary of methane hydrate stability responds to modern environmental change. These pre-cruise results provided the context for a systematic geophysical and geochemical survey of methane seepage along the upper continental slope from 48° to 46°N during a 10-day field program on the R/V Thompson from October 10-19, 2014. This systematic inventory of methane emissions along this climate-sensitive margin corridor and comprehensive sediment and water column sampling program provided data and samples for Phase 3 of this project that focused on determining fluid and methane sources (deep-source vs. shallow; microbial, thermogenic, gas hydrate dissociation) within the sediment, and how they relate to contemporary intermediate water warming. During the 2014 research expedition, we sampled nine seep sites between ~470 and 520 m water depth, within the zone of predicted methane hydrate retreat over the past 40 years. We imaged 22 bubble plumes with heights commonly rising to ~300 meters below sea level with one reaching near the sea surface. We collected 22 gravity cores and 20 CTD/hydrocasts from the 9 seeps and at background locations (no acoustic evidence of seepage) within the depth interval of predicted downslope retreat of the methane hydrate stability zone. Approximately 300 pore water samples were extracted from the gravity cores, and the pore water was analyzed for a comprehensive suite of solutes, gases, and stable isotope ratios. This comprehensive geochemical dataset was used to characterize the fluid and gas source(s) at each of the seep sites surveyed. The primary results of this project are: 1) Bottom simulating reflector-derived heat flow values decrease from 95 mW/m2 10 km east of the deformation front to ~60 mW/m2 60 km landward of the deformation front, with anomalously low values of ~25 mW/m2 on a prominent mid-margin terrace off central Washington. 2) The temperature of the incoming sediment/ocean crust interface at the deformation front ranges between 164-179 oC off central Washington, and the 350 oC isotherm at the top of the subducting ocean crust occurs 95 km landward of the deformation front. Differences between BSR-derived heat flow and modeled conductive heat flow suggest mean upward fluid flow rates of 0.4 cm/yr across the margin, with local regions (e.g. fault zones) exhibiting fluid flow rates up to 3.5 cm/yr. 3) A compilation of 2122 high-resolution CTD, glider, and Argo float temperature profiles spanning the upper continental slope of the Washington margin from the years 1968 to 2013 show a long-term warming trend that ranges from 0.006-0.008 oC/yr. Based on this long-term bottom water warming, we developed a 2-D thermal model to simulate the change in sediment temperature distribution over this period, along with the downslope retreat of the methane hydrate stability field. Over the 43 years of the simulation, the thermal disturbance propagated 30 m into the sediment column, causing the base of the methane hydrate stability field to shoal ~13 m and to move ~1 km downslope. 4) A preliminary analysis of seafloor observations and mid-water column acoustic data to detect bubble plumes was used to characterize the depth distribution of seeps along the Cascadia margin. These results indicate high bubble plume densities along the continental shelf at water depths <180 m and at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability along the Washington margin. 5) The majority of the seeps cored during the 2014 research expedition on the R/V Thompson contained abundant authigenic carbonate indicating that they are locations of long-lived seepage rather than emergent seep systems related to methane hydrate dissociation. Despite the evidence for enhanced methane seepage at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability along the Washington margin, we found no unequivocal evidence for active methane hydrate dissociation as a source of fluid and gas at the seeps surveyed. The pore fluid and bottom water chemistry shows that the seeps are fed by a variety of fluid and methane sources, but that methane hydrate dissociation, if occurring, is not widespread and is only a minor source (below the detection limit of our methods). Collectively, these results provide a significant advance in our understanding of the thermal structure of the Cascadia subduction zone and the fluid and methane sources feeding seeps along the upper continental slope of the Washington-sector of the Cascadia margin. Though we did not find unequivocal evidence for methane hydrate dissociation as a source of water and methane at the upper pressure-temperature limit of methane hydrate stability at present, continued warming of North Pacific Intermediate Water in the future has the potential to impact the methane hydrate reservoir in sediments at greater depths along the slope. Thus, this study provides a strong foundation and the necessary characterization of the background state of seepage at the upper limit of methane hydrate stability for future investigations of this important process.},
doi = {10.2172/1408239},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Nov 10 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Fri Nov 10 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

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