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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-11
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-11
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Open system pingos as hotspots for sub-permafrost methane emission in Svalbard

Andrew Jonathan Hodson1,2, Aga Nowak1, Kim Senger1, Kelly Redeker3, Hanne H. Christiansen1, Søren Jessen4, Mikkel T. Hornum1,4, Peter Betlem1, Steve F. Thornton5, Alexandra V. Turchyn6, Snorre Olaussen1, and Alina Marca7 Andrew Jonathan Hodson et al.
  • 1Department of Arctic Geology, University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), 9171 Longyearbyen, Norway
  • 2Department of Environmental Science, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Røyrgata 6, 6856 Sogndal, Norway
  • 3Department of Biology, University of York, YO10 5DD, UK
  • 4Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark
  • 5Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
  • 6Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, CB2 3EQ, UK
  • 7School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK

Abstract. Methane release from beneath lowland permafrost represents an important uncertainty in the Arctic greenhouse gas budget. Our current knowledge is arguably best-developed in settings where permafrost is being inundated by rising sea level, which means much of the methane is oxidised in the water column before it reaches the atmosphere. Here we provide a different process perspective that is appropriate for Arctic fjord valleys, where local deglaciation causes isostatic uplift to out-pace rising sea level. We show how the uplift induces permafrost aggradation in former marine sediments, whose pressurisation results in methane escape directly to the atmosphere via ground water springs. In Adventdalen, Central Spitsbergen, we show how the springs are historic features, responsible for the formation of open system pingos, and capable of discharging brackish waters enriched with high concentrations of mostly biogenic methane (average 18 mg L−1). Thermodynamic calculations show that the methane concentrations sometimes marginally exceed the solubility limit for methane in water at 0 °C (41 mg L−1). In our case study, emissions from just four pingo springs with a combined discharge of less than 2 L s−1 increase the land-atmosphere methane flux by 16 %. This confirms that sub-permafrost methane migration deserves more attention for improved forecasting of Arctic greenhouse gas emissions.

Andrew Jonathan Hodson et al.

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Detailed water quality parameters, including methane concentrations and isotopic composition, for groundwater springs discharging from open system pingos in Adventdalen, Svalbard (2014-2017) A. J. Hodson https://doi.org/10.5285/3d82fd3f-884b-47b6-b11c-6c96d66b950d

Andrew Jonathan Hodson et al.

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Short summary
Methane stored below permafrost is an unknown quantity in the Arctic greenhouse gas budget. In coastal areas with rising sea-level, much of the methane seeps into the sea and is removed before it reaches the atmosphere. However, where isostatic uplift outpaces rising sea level, ground water discharge through pingos can enable methane escape directly to the atmosphere. We describe this process and show how these pingo springs increase the land-atmosphere methane flux by about 16 %.
Methane stored below permafrost is an unknown quantity in the Arctic greenhouse gas budget. In...
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