The goal of the SEAMSTRESS project is to investigate the mechanisms behind the release of greenhouse gasses from the ocean floor.
Greenhouse gasses, such as methane, are a major concern when it comes to climate change. Large amounts of these gasses are released from the sediment on the ocean floor, not only potentially influencing our global climate, but also affecting seabed ecology and increasing the risk of underwater landslides and tsunamis. While we know that this is a widespread phenomenon, we still don’t understand the mechanisms controlling the timing and quantities of this release. SEAMSTRESS puts forward a working hypothesis, this is that methane release is closely related to regional processes such as the separation of tectonic plates at the mid-ocean ridges and the crushing weight of solid ice-masses.
The project is supported by a starting grant from the Tromsø Research Foundation (TFS of Trond Mohn) and one from the Research Council of Norway (RCN – Frinatek). Two PhD students, 2 post docs, a research assistance and 2 short term collaborators, have been recruited to work together with the project leader and partners, in the quantification of the physical forces exerted on the sediment at Arctic continental margins to study its impact on gas expulsion.
On-site experiments measuring sediment properties and tectonic forces will validate numerical models explaining the timing and quantities of gas release over geological time. Preliminary results from the west-Svalbard margin show that most of the gas release in the region occur where the separation of plates at the mid-ocean ridges open cracks in the sediment that allow the gasses to escape. In areas where tectonic forces are compressive, the cracks remain tight and the gas stay trapped within the sediment. The concepts and approaches developed by SEAMSTRESS for Arctic sites also apply to other regions, e.g., along the Atlantic Ocean, where estimating the amount of methane escaping from the ocean floor is crucial to determining its effect on Earth’s hydrological and atmospheric processes.
The project started in April 2019 and you ca follow it at https://site.uit.no/seamstress/