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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 Nov 2018

Research article | 22 Nov 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Satellite ice extent, sea surface temperature, and atmospheric methane trends in the Barents and Kara Seas

Ira Leifer1, F. Robert Chen2, Thomas McClimans3, Frank Muller Karger2, and Leonid Yurganov4 Ira Leifer et al.
  • 1Bubbleology Research International, Inc., Solvang, CA, USA
  • 2University of Southern Florida, USA
  • 3SINTEF Ocean, Trondheim, Norway
  • 4University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA

Abstract. Over a decade (2003–2015) of satellite data of sea-ice extent, sea surface temperature (SST), and methane (CH4) concentrations in lower troposphere over 10 focus areas within the Barents and Kara Seas (BKS) were analyzed for anomalies and trends relative to the Barents Sea. Large positive CH4 anomalies were discovered around Franz Josef Land (FJL) and offshore west Novaya Zemlya in early fall. Far smaller CH4 enhancement was found around Svalbard, downstream and north of known seabed seepage. SST increased in all focus areas at rates from 0.0018 to 0.15 °C yr−1, CH4 growth spanned 3.06 to 3.49 ppb yr−1.

The strongest SST increase was observed each year in the southeast Barents Sea in June due to strengthening of the warm Murman Current (MC), and in the south Kara Sea in September. The southeast Barents Sea, the south Kara Sea and coastal areas around FJL exhibited the strongest CH4 growth over the observation period. Likely sources are CH4 seepage from subsea permafrost and hydrate thawing and the petroleum reservoirs underlying the central and east Barents Sea and the Kara Sea. The spatial pattern was poorly related to seabed depth. However, the increase in CH4 emissions over time may be explained by a process of shoaling of strengthening warm ocean currents that would also advect the CH4 to areas where seasonal deepening of the surface ocean mixed layer depth leads to ventilation of these water masses. Continued strengthening of the MC will further increase heat transfer to the BKS, with the Barents Sea ice-free in ~ 15 years. We thus expect marine CH4 flux to the atmosphere from this region to continue increasing.

Ira Leifer et al.
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Ira Leifer et al.
Ira Leifer et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We studied long-term satellite data of the Barents and Kara Seas (BKS) of atmospheric CH4 and sea surface temperature (SST). Enhanced CH4 was found near Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, sources not in current budgets and areas of shoaling–where currents drive CH4–rich seabed water upslope to escape to the atmosphere, far from the source. Trends suggest increasing current heat transport warms the seabed, driving CH4 seepage from submerged hydrates and permafrost.
We studied long-term satellite data of the Barents and Kara Seas (BKS) of atmospheric CH4 and...