Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Major Methane Releases at Laptev Megaflare Spot

The SWERUS-C3 (Oden) expedition continues to update methane findings of the past several days. The ship's current location is in the Laptev Sea, searching for methane plumes and rechecking stations visited in past expeditions by Semiletov and Shakhova.

The circled area on the map is the area of the methane emissions addressed below.
Use Google Chrome for website.

What is being found is surprising and sobering. As Ulf Hedman, Science Coordinator, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat reported yesterday, they have found at least one "megaflare" of methane release from the Laptev Sea floor into the armosphere. 

In his words, "We are “sniffing” methane. We see the bubbles on video from the camera mounted on the CTD or the Multicorer. All analysis tells the signs. We are in a Mega flare. We see it in the water column we read it above the surface an we follow it up high into the sky with radars and lasers. We see it mixed in the air and carried away with the winds. Methane in the air."

Örjan Gustafsson, Stockholm University, commented, "The discovery was made while the icebreaker Oden crosscut the Laptev Sea along a depth gradient from 1000m to just 100m following the continental slope upward to reach the shallow waters of the outer Laptev Sea Shelf. By use of acoustic techniques and geochemical analyses of water samples, the scientists found vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor at depths between 500 m and 150 m. At several places, the methane “bubbles“ even rose to the ocean surface."

Hedman posted this image to illustrate the rise of, and the saturation of methane in the ocean at one location which seems to be at about 62 meters in depth. 
Hedman's comments about this search and discovery were: "Back and forth, back and forth. We are now on the way to station 22. Back and forth. Indications of flares and the mid-water sonar goes red. We throw everything we got in the water and turn on all ship system to maximum for logging data."

So what are the initial findings?

According to Örjan Gustafsson, Stockholm University, "the leaking methane from the seafloor of the continental slope may have its origins in collapsing “methane hydrates,” clusters of methane trapped in frozen water due to high pressure and low temperature."

The methane saturation levels were the big surprise, "results of preliminary analyses of seawater samples pointed towards levels of dissolved methane 10-50 times higher than background levels."

What is causing the seeps to increase? 

"Örjan Gustafsson thinks that the mechanism behind the presence of methane seeps at these depths may have something to do with the ”tongue” of relatively warm Atlantic water, presumably intruding across the Arctic Ocean at 200-600 m depths.” Some evidence have shown that this water mass has recently become warmer. As this warm Atlantic water, the last remnants of the Gulf Stream, propagates eastward along the upper slope of the East Siberian margin, it may lead to destabilization of methane hydrates on the upper portion of the slope. This may be what we are now seeing for the first time.”

That subsurface Atlantic water is accompanied by Laptev Sea surface temperatures as high as 6.9 C, as reported by Oden over the last few days.

How large an area of methane release is witnessed by the expedition? Enough that it is a significant source emitting from several areas in the megaflare. "We mapped out an area of several kilometers where bubbles were filling the water column at depths of 200 to 500 m,” writes Örjan Gustafsson. "Additional observations include the discovery of over 100 new methane seep sites in the shallower waters of the Laptev shelf (at 60-70m depth), a likely consequence of the thawing subsea permafrost."

We have gained solid science data on a major methane source that is entering the atmosphere form the Laptev, and it will be interesting to observe how many more will be found in the coming days. If this is further documented, we are witnessing the further degradation of subsea permafrost with real global climate implications.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Major Arctic Methane Research Underway - SWERUS-C3 and more

In a recent blogpost, "Tracking the Footprints of the Arctic Methane Monster" (July 18, 2014), robertscribbler suggested that there was less coverage of, or reduction in, Arctic methane research. Actually, major Arctic methane research is underway, fully funded, and significant information is being made publicly available. What follows is a response to his post.


The (Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), experiment is ongoing as part of the NOAA ESRL Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network’s aircraft program. The last data it reported was on July 12, 2014. (See the ESRL link in the sources for a full list and the CARVE data link). CARVE data from the 2012 and 2013 seasons are available on the JPL website (registration required). 

CARVE is now part of the ABOVE program, which is a major research program during the next 5-8 years in Alaska and Western Canada, which includes CO2 and CH4 studies. The current funding runs through 2016 under Bill Munger. See the links in the sources below.


The British NERC methane research project is underway, flying over the Scandinavian tundra, forests and wetlands, as far north as Svalbard, and into the Atlantic to track methane sources. They have a webpage and blog which updates their flights, tracks and at times, findings. See the sources below.

GFZ Helmhotltz AIRMETH/Methane Stories

The German research in 2013, AIRMETH, did similar flights to CARVE over the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic. This year they are doing flights over the Lena River Delta, which started in April, 2014. See the blog link in the sources:

AIRS Methane Data:

The AIRS/AQUA CH4 data is available in the Giovanni 4.8 release. I agree with Robert that the new AIRS CH4 format is far less useful than the earlier output. It is less public user friendly, given that the data is now displayed in mol/cm2 vs ppb, and only for the entire atmospheric column. Output appears like this:
(The link is in the sources below.)

NOAA ESRL Methane (CH4) Surface Flask Data:

Robert stated that he thought the ESRL CH4 flask data was not being updated. It is being updated, and the June 24, 2014 files contain the verified site data through December 31, 2013. (See the link in the sources.)

However, Robert is correct that the ESRL GMD surface flask chart readings do not include data points later than early May, and some not since the beginning of 2014. (See the link in sources.)

What is really missing is the monthly and annual global CH4 data trends that used to be available at the ESRL/GMD ftp.


The EUTMETSAT METOP IASI data for methane availability has improved in the last few months, with both METOP 1-B and METOP 2-A imagery now fully available for a 3 day download period. I continue to collect the methane imagery daily. More on this data and imagery in another post. See the sources below for the updated link page.

Here are the highest global mean methane readings from the July 20, 2014 from METOP 1-B am/pm at 469 mb to demonstrate the methane high concentrations in the Northern Hemisphere which may be related to the forest fires. More on that in another post.

Natalia Shakhova June 20, 2014 Youtube Interview

Natalia Shakhova conducted about a 45 minute interview with Nick Breeze now available on Youtube in 3 segments. She was discussing Arctic methane issues prior to departure on the SWERUS-C3 expedition, now underway. At times, Semelitov comments off camera. The links are in the sources.

IARC 2014 Arctic Expedition - SWERUS-C3

On June 27, 2014 the IARC released a press announcement for this summer's extended Arctic research voyage, which is a joint science expedition, but has a major Arctic Ocean methane research component led by Semiletov. It noted:

"IARC scientists Igor Semiletov and Natalia Shakhova have been busy getting ready for an international research expedition to the Arctic Ocean that will take place July through October, 2014.

The largest international research expedition that Semiletov and Shakhova have been involved in, the SWERUS-C3 (Swedish-Russian-US Arctic Ocean Investigation of Climate-Cryosphere-Carbon Interactions) program is expected to last 100 days with 80 researchers on board covering the northern stretches of the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea. This is a Swedish, Russian and American collaboration to study interactions among the Climate, Cryosphere and Carbon release from the sediment.

The expedition will take place in two legs. The first leg, July 6 through August 20, with Semiletov as Chief Scientist, covers Tromsø, Norway to Barrow, Alaska, along the coast of the Russian polar sea. Researchers will study methane held in permafrost and gas hydrates in the East Siberian shelf seas.

The second leg includes a course from Barrow to Tromsø over the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain chain near the North Pole. Researchers will investigate how relatively warm Atlantic water flows and how carbon is transported from the East Siberian shelf seas to the deep seas of the Arctic Ocean." See source below:

The voyage generally follows this track map, which is interactive online:

The SWERUS-C3 expedition can be followed on its website,  updated regularly with tweets from the Swedish icebreaker Oden, including location and course changes. See website in sources.

The Twitter feed is very active: In the last 3 days they have tweeted that have returned to a methane hotpot in the Laptev discovered in 2008. They have found, according to Örjan Gustafsson:  

"1) Our first observations of elevated methane levels, about ten times higher than in background seawater, were documented already as we climbed up the steep continental slope at stations in 500 and 250 m depth."

"2) Using the mid-water sonar, we mapped out an area of several kilometers where bubbles were filling the water column from depths of 200 to 500 m. During the preceding 48 h we have performed station work in two areas on the shallow shelf with depths of 60-70m where we discovered over 100 new methane seep sites."

Another blog, in Dutch, is available as well. See links to blog pages:

SWERUS-C3 Update July 22, 2014

A scientist on the Oden has blogged about the seabed methane emissions saturating the water column and entering the atmosphere - terming it a "megaflare." Ulf Hedman, Science Coordinator, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat comments:

"We see the bubbles on video from the camera mounted on the CTD or the Multicorer. All analysis tells the signs. We are in a Mega flare. We see it in the water column we read it above the surface an we follow it up high into the sky with radars and lasers. We see it mixed in the air and carried away with the winds."

Source link below.


First, a lot of Arctic methane science is being done, and sources about that research are even more available than in the past, especially for the SWERUS-C3 expedition.

Semiletov's and Shakhova's research premises are being fully supported by the initial discoveries of new methane seeps. How much methane released from 60-70 meters is making to the surface is yet unknown. We will learn alot about Arctic ocean methane release in the next few months. More importantly, at least some information will be made available almost real-time.



NOAA ESRL Global GGRN Aircraft Program:

NOAA ESRL CARVE data being collected:



CARVE Pre-ABOVE, Munger:


NASA ESRL CH4 Surface Flask Data Sets:

NASA ESRL GMD Interactive Map:


MAMM: ARP/NERC webpage:

MAMM blog:

AIRMETH/Methane Stories:

Shakhova Interview Segment 1:

Shakhova Interview Segment 2:

Shakhova Interview Segment 3:

IARC Arctic Expedition: release:

SWERUS-C3 website:

SWERUS-C3 Swedish research announcement:,c9617809

SWERUS-C3 media site:

SWERUS-C3 Twitter feed:

SWERUS-C3 Facebook page:

SWERUS-C3 methane seep discovery:

SWERUS-C3 Gustaffson's blog:

Dutch SWERUS-C3 blog:

SWERUS-C3 media site:

SWERUS-C3 Megaflare: