Slope stability, gas hydrates, and methane seepage at the shelf north of Svalbard

Wolfram.Geissler [ at ]


The Arctic changes rapidly in response to global warming and is expected to change even faster in the future (IPCC 2001, 2007, 2013). Large areas of the shelves and continental slopes bordering the Arctic Ocean are characterized by permafrost and the presence of gas hydrates. Future global warming and potential hydrate dissociation in the Arctic Ocean challenge the slope stability of these areas. This may lead to slope failures. The first, and so far only reported, large-scale slope failure in the Arctic Ocean is the Hinlopen/Yermak Megaslide, which is located in front of the Hinlopen glacial trough north of Svalbard. During cruise MSM31 onboard the German R/V MARIA S. MERIAN we investigated this giant slope failure and the deeper structure of the Sophia Basin in detail to elucidate the potential causes of the main and following failure events as well as to test existing hypotheses on the generation of this giant submarine landslide. We studied the megaslide and the adjacent so far not failed shelf areas by means of multibeam swath bathymetry, Parasound sediment echo sounder, low- and high-resolution multichannel seismic reflection profiling. The seismic data image bottom-simulating reflectors beneath not failed areas of the slope, as well as a buried gas escape pipe. On the shelf, shallower than the gas hydrate stability zone, we observed widespread gas seepage as flares in the Parasound echo sounder data. These flares rise from a seafloor highly disturbed by iceberg scouring. Therefore, we could not identify pockmarks in the multibeam data. At one location, we sampled a flare by means of a CTD probe close to the seafloor and proofed that the emanating gas has a high methane concentration. The new data indicate that the existence of gas and gas hydrates beneath the shelf north of Svalbard was one key factor causing slope instability in the past and may also cause further slope failures in the future.

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Conference (Talk)
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7th International Conference on Arctic Margins - ICAM 2015, 02 Jun 2015 - 05 Jun 2015, Trondheim, Norway.
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Geissler, W. , Gebhardt, C. , Gross, F. , Wollenburg, J. , Jensen, L. , Schmidt-Aursch, M. and Krastel, S. (2015): Slope stability, gas hydrates, and methane seepage at the shelf north of Svalbard , 7th International Conference on Arctic Margins - ICAM 2015, Trondheim, Norway, 2 June 2015 - 5 June 2015 .

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