Unprecedented methane emissions recorded in the East Siberian Sea

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Russian scientists have witnessed an incredible methane emission from the bottom of the East Siberian Sea. Saturated with gas, sea water could be scooped up with buckets.

Researchers who talked about the amazing find are aboard the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh. The purpose of the expedition is to identify the biogeochemical and environmental consequences of the melting of permafrost caused by global warming.

Scientists observed a rare phenomenon in the region of the East Siberian Sea, where previously geophysical instruments recorded the appearance of powerful underwater fountains (vultures). These are jets of water saturated with bubbles of methane rising from the bottom to the surface.

“Seismic acoustics using their equipment saw a powerful vulture. But it’s one thing to fix this phenomenon with the help of special instruments, and it’s completely different to see the methane emission to the surface of the water with your own eyes.

No matter how accurate the equipment showing the coordinates of the sip, it is more difficult to find a place for gas to escape into the atmosphere in sea waves than to find a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, the expedition members succeeded!

On the right side of the Keldysh, they saw a spot of emerald color against the background of dark water. Approaching it, scientists were able to observe how gas rises from the black depths of the sea to the surface with thousands of bubble filaments,” said Sergey Nikiforov, chief expert of the Office of the Vice-Rector of Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), from the ship’s side.

The area of ​​the fountain was four to five square meters. For sampling methane, specially prepared containers were not even needed: the water saturated with it could be scooped up literally with buckets. Gas from the vulture’s body was even pumped into several cylinders (!).

“This is the most powerful sip I have ever seen. It manifests itself in an increase in methane concentration in air up to 16 ppm, that is, millionths of a fraction. This is nine times the average planetary values. No one has ever recorded anything like this before,” says a corresponding member RAS Igor Semiletov , a participant in no less than 45 Arctic expeditions.

Scientists have taken water samples at different depths, as well as samples of bottom soil.

The very next day, in another section of the waters, a sip of almost the same power was observed. The phenomenon was recorded not only by scientific equipment, but also by ordinary smartphones of the expedition members.

“For three days of work at the training ground in the East Siberian Sea, unique scientific material was collected. But the expedition came only to its middle. Ahead are the studies of the Laptev Sea megasip, new experiments, painstaking collection of data and samples,” says Nikiforov.


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