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Satellite ice extent, sea surface temperature, and atmospheric methane trends in the Barents and Kara Seas
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  • Ira Leifer,
  • Robert Chen,
  • Thomas McClimans,
  • Frank Muller-Karger
Ira Leifer
Bubbleology Research International
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Robert Chen
University of South Florida
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Thomas McClimans
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Frank Muller-Karger
University of Southern Florida

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Large positive anomalies in lower troposphere methane (CH4) in early fall of nearly every year (2003 to 2015) led to an average atmospheric CH4 growth of 3.06 to 3.49 ppb yr-1 for the Barents and Kara Seas (BKS). At the same time, sea surface temperature (SST) increased from 0.0018 to 0.15 °C yr-1 while sea ice coverage decreased. Large positive CH4 anomalies were discovered around Franz Josef Land (FJL) and offshore west Novaya Zemlya with smaller CH4 enhancement and growth near Svalbard, downstream and north of known seabed CH4 seepage. The strongest SST increase each year was in the southeast Barents Sea in June due to strengthening of the warm Murman Current (MC) and in the south Kara Sea in September. We propose that atmospheric CH4 increase is occurring due to seepage from the petroleum reservoirs underlying the BKS and thawing of subsea permafrost and hydrates which then ventilates to the atmosphere from seasonal deepening of the surface ocean mixed layer and also from “methane shoaling” where currents transport deep water CH4 into shallower waters. Continued strengthening heat transfer by the MC to the BKS will contribute to further warming (with the Barents Sea projected ice-free around 2030) and marine CH4 emissions to the atmosphere.