Methane cycling within sea ice: results from drifting ice during late spring, north of Svalbard

Verdugo, Josefa; Damm, Ellen; Nikolopoulos, Anna

Summer sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has declined sharply during the last decades, leading to changes in ice structures. The shift from thicker multi-year ice to thinner first-year ice changes the methane storage transported by sea ice into remote areas far away from its origin. As significant amounts of methane are stored in sea ice, minimal changes in the ice structure may have a strong impact on the fate of methane when ice melts. Hence, sea ice type is an important indicator of modifications to methane pathways. Based on measurements of methane concentration and its isotopic composition on a drifting ice floe, we report on different storage capacities of methane within first-year ice and ridged/rafted ice, as well as methane supersaturation in the seawater. During this early melt season, we show that ice type and/or structure determines the fate of methane and that methane released into seawater is a predominant pathway. We suggest that sea ice loaded with methane acts as a source of methane for polar surface waters during late spring.

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Verdugo, Josefa / Damm, Ellen / Nikolopoulos, Anna: Methane cycling within sea ice: results from drifting ice during late spring, north of Svalbard. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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