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Title: Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf

Abstract

In response to warming climate, methane can be released to Arctic Ocean sediment and waters from thawing subsea permafrost and decomposing methane hydrates. However, it is unknown whether methane derived from this sediment storehouse of frozen ancient carbon reaches the atmosphere. We quantified the fraction of methane derived from ancient sources in shelf waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea, a region that has both permafrost and methane hydrates and is experiencing significant warming. Although the radiocarbon-methane analyses indicate that ancient carbon is being mobilized and emitted as methane into shelf bottom waters, surprisingly, we find that methane in surface waters is principally derived from modern-aged carbon. We report that at and beyond approximately the 30-m isobath, ancient sources that dominate in deep waters contribute, at most, 10 ± 3% of the surface water methane. These results suggest that even if there is a heightened liberation of ancient carbon–sourced methane as climate change proceeds, oceanic oxidation and dispersion processes can strongly limit its emission to the atmosphere.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2];  [3];  [2]; ORCiD logo [4]; ORCiD logo [5];  [6];  [7];  [3]
  1. Univ. of Rochester, NY (United States). Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Stockholm Univ. (Sweden). Dept. of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry. Bolin Centre for Climate Research
  2. Univ. of Rochester, NY (United States). Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  3. Univ. of California, Irvine, CA (United States). Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab. Dept. of Earth System Science
  4. Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth, MN (United States). Large Lakes Observatory. Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  5. U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, MA (United States)
  6. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States). Cooperative Inst. for Research in Environmental Sciences; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Boulder, CO (United States). Global Monitoring Division. Earth System Research Lab.
  7. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States). Inst. of Arctic and Alpine Research
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Rochester, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE); National Science Foundation (NSF)
OSTI Identifier:
1499955
Grant/Contract Number:  
FE0028980; PLR-1417149
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Science Advances
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 4; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2375-2548
Publisher:
AAAS
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES

Citation Formats

Sparrow, Katy J., Kessler, John D., Southon, John R., Garcia-Tigreros, Fenix, Schreiner, Kathryn M., Ruppel, Carolyn D., Miller, John B., Lehman, Scott J., and Xu, Xiaomei. Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao4842.
Sparrow, Katy J., Kessler, John D., Southon, John R., Garcia-Tigreros, Fenix, Schreiner, Kathryn M., Ruppel, Carolyn D., Miller, John B., Lehman, Scott J., & Xu, Xiaomei. Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf. United States. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao4842.
Sparrow, Katy J., Kessler, John D., Southon, John R., Garcia-Tigreros, Fenix, Schreiner, Kathryn M., Ruppel, Carolyn D., Miller, John B., Lehman, Scott J., and Xu, Xiaomei. Wed . "Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf". United States. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao4842. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1499955.
@article{osti_1499955,
title = {Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf},
author = {Sparrow, Katy J. and Kessler, John D. and Southon, John R. and Garcia-Tigreros, Fenix and Schreiner, Kathryn M. and Ruppel, Carolyn D. and Miller, John B. and Lehman, Scott J. and Xu, Xiaomei},
abstractNote = {In response to warming climate, methane can be released to Arctic Ocean sediment and waters from thawing subsea permafrost and decomposing methane hydrates. However, it is unknown whether methane derived from this sediment storehouse of frozen ancient carbon reaches the atmosphere. We quantified the fraction of methane derived from ancient sources in shelf waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea, a region that has both permafrost and methane hydrates and is experiencing significant warming. Although the radiocarbon-methane analyses indicate that ancient carbon is being mobilized and emitted as methane into shelf bottom waters, surprisingly, we find that methane in surface waters is principally derived from modern-aged carbon. We report that at and beyond approximately the 30-m isobath, ancient sources that dominate in deep waters contribute, at most, 10 ± 3% of the surface water methane. These results suggest that even if there is a heightened liberation of ancient carbon–sourced methane as climate change proceeds, oceanic oxidation and dispersion processes can strongly limit its emission to the atmosphere.},
doi = {10.1126/sciadv.aao4842},
journal = {Science Advances},
number = 1,
volume = 4,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {1}
}

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Works referenced in this record:

The application and interpretation of Keeling plots in terrestrial carbon cycle research
journal, March 2003

  • Pataki, D. E.; Ehleringer, J. R.; Flanagan, L. B.
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Vol. 17, Issue 1, Article No. 1022
  • DOI: 10.1029/2001GB001850