By Thomas D. Lorenson and Keith A. Kvenvolde
This report summarizes data acquired from 1990 to 1994 for the gas-hydrate portion of the USGS project "Permafrost and gas hydrate as possible sources of methane" of the USGS Global Change and Climate History program. The objective of this project has been to test the hypothesis that gas hydrate deposits of the Beaufort Sea continental shelf are destabilized by the ~10°C temperature increase that has resulted from the Holocene transgression of the Arctic Ocean. To test this idea we have selected an area off the north coast of Alaska centered on Harrison Bay. We have measured the concentration of methane in surficial sediments, in the water column when ice is present and absent, and in seasonal sea ice. Our results show that more methane is present in the water when ice is present than when ice is absent, and that methane is also present within the ice itself, often at higher concentrations than in the water. Thus the Beaufort Sea shelf of Alaska is a seasonal source of methane. The primary source of this methane has not yet been defined, but gas hydrate is a reasonable candidate.
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U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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