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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Methane Seepage from the Arctic Seafloor

Currently Active: 

Atmospheric methane contributes to warming global climate as a potent greenhouse gas. In the Arctic, where warming is occurring at twice the global average, methane previously sequestered in the earth is being released as a result of increasing temperatures. If methane released beneath the seafloor reaches the atmosphere, a positive warming feedback could be established.

Source: C Graves
Echosounder image

Methane Hydrate Destabilization?

Methane hydrate is an ice-like material which is stable at high pressure and low temperature where water is saturated with methane, conditions which are satisfied in continental margin sediments. Hydrates immobilize large quantities of methane in the solid form. Estimates of the global hydrate methane inventory are on the order of half the earth's total organic carbon. Temperature driven destabilization of gas hydrate could release vast amounts of methane, significantly impacting global climate if the gas reaches the atmosphere. Shallow arctic gas hydrates are most vulnerable to warming ocean waters.


Source: C Graves
Study area and seepage locations

Scientific Aims

We aim to quantify and parameterize methane release offshore Svalbard. Specifically:

  • How much methane is released at the seafloor, how much reaches the atmosphere?
  • What is the significance of different processes effecting methane flux, including:
    • Anaerobic oxidation in sediments
    • Aerobic oxidation in seawater
    • Physical mixing and dilution
  • What is the history of methane release?
Source: C Graves
Recovered gas hydrate from coring

Key Contacts

Carolyn Graves (Postgraduate Research Student)

Prof Rachael James (Supervisor)

Dr Doug Connelly (Supervisor)


Additional information

Additional information can be found at:

National Oceanography Centre Marine Geoscience Group

2008 Research Cruise Press Release

2012 Research Cruise Press Release

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Carbon Storage and Geoengineering

Related research groups

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