Predicting Future Methane Emissions off Svalbard

Former Southampton PhD student Hector Marín-Moreno with Southampton co-authors Tim Minshull, Graham Westbrook and Bablu Sinha have been studying how methane emissions from the seabed west of the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard might change in the future. Methane can be trapped beneath the seabed in the form of an ice-like substance called hydrate, which is stable if the pressure is high and the temperature is low. If the ocean above warms up, heat gradually spreads into the sediments beneath the seabed and can melt the hydrate present there, releasing methane gas that can then make its way up to the seabed. This process is thought to be happening now in several places around the world, including west of Svalbard. The Southampton researchers used sophisticated computer simulations to explore how this process might work over the past two millennia and over the next century. They concluded that methane emissions are sensitive to seasonal temperature fluctuations and that beyond 2050, the amount of methane emitted will depend strongly on the amount of greenhouse gases generated by human activity.

Their analysis has just been published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems and can be downloaded here.