Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
Research article
03 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 03 Jun 2014

Physical controls on the storage of methane in landfast sea ice

J. Zhou, J.-L. Tison, G. Carnat, N.-X. Geilfus, and B. Delille

Abstract. We report on methane (CH4) dynamics in landfast sea ice, brine and under-ice seawater at Barrow in 2009. The CH4 concentrations in under-ice water ranged from 25.9 to 116.4 nmol L−1sw, indicating a supersaturation of 700 to 3100% relative to the atmosphere. In comparison, the CH4 concentrations in sea ice ranged from 3.4 to 17.2 nmol L−1ice and the deduced CH4 concentrations in brine from 13.2 to 677.7 nmol L−1brine. We investigated the processes underlying the difference in CH4 concentrations between sea ice, brine and under-ice water and suggest that biological controls on the storage of CH4 in ice were minor in comparison to the physical controls. Two physical processes regulated the storage of CH4 in our landfast ice samples: bubble formation within the ice and sea ice permeability. Gas bubble formation due to brine concentration and solubility decrease favoured the accumulation of CH4 in the ice at the beginning of ice growth. CH4 retention in sea ice was then twice as efficient as that of salt; this also explains the overall higher CH4 concentrations in brine than in the under-ice water. As sea ice thickened, gas bubble formation became less efficient, CH4 was then mainly trapped in the dissolved state. The increase of sea ice permeability during ice melt marked the end of CH4 storage.