What is MOCA?
The MOCA project will enhance understanding of the present atmospheric effects of methane released from dissociation of gas hydrates in Arctic seabed sediments, and will also inform on the future potential impacts in a warming climate on decadal to centennial timescales.
Methane hydrates (MH) in ocean seabed sediments are a potential source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere, where CH4 has potential to act as a powerful greenhouse gas. Recent scientific results studies show diversity in the flux of CH4 that actually reaches the atmosphere. MH are potentially susceptible to ocean warming, which could trigger a positive feedback resulting in rapid climate warming.
MOCA is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and will apply advanced measurements and modelling to quantify the amount and present atmospheric impact of CH4 originating from MH. Furthermore, the project will investigate potential future climate effects from destabilisation of MH deposits in a warming climate, and will focus on scenarios in 2050 and 2100.
Measurements West of Prins Karls Forland in summer 2014 suggest that the amount of methane from the seabed that actually reaches the atmosphere is heavily influenced by ocean water stratification. However, it is expected that ocean stratification varies over the course of a year as temperatures and wind speeds change. To test the effect of seasonal changes in the ocean, autumn-time measurements in the same area are ongoing (October 2015). In addition to online measurements of CH4/CO2/CO and flask sampling, a prototype probe is being tested in collaboration with LGGE (Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement) to be able to measure time resolved methane in the water column up to several hundred meters depth.
The summer 2015 Barent’s Sea cruise ended mid-July. In addition to the successful collection of online data on CH4, CO2, CO and flask samples for quantification of light hydrocarbons, two samples of pure gas hydrates have been taken from drill cores south of Svalbard earlier this summer. Quantification of the light hydrocarbons in these samples will give a clearer picture of how a hydrate signal would look if hydrate gases reach atmosphere.
Anna Silyakova, CAGE, working with the methane samples, and transferring them to the new sampling equipment developed during MOCA for analysis at NILU.
The MOCA project follows up on last year's activities with new surveys in the Barents Sea, on board of RV Helmer Hanssen (see map section). During the next two weeks, senior scientist Ove Hermansen will collect 120 samples which shall be used to examine the various gases rising from the seabed. As part of the project, CH4, CO and CO2 are continuously measured in Arctic ocean areas. The data is monitored in near real time at NILU, through the EBAS data centre.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK has reported about MOCA and CAGE in the evening news on Sunday night, 14.September. You can watch the video clip HERE (in Norwegian).
The 2nd MOCA flight campaign starts from Novosibirsk 15. October, and continue with targeted flights for 3-5 days, depending on weather. French and Russian collaborators lead this campaign. We are using a well-equipped aircraft,
(https://yak-aerosib.lsce.ipsl.fr/) operated by Jean-Daniel Paris, (LSCE, France) and Boris Belan (IAO,Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia). This campaign is starting in Novosibirsk, going to Salekhard and then over the Kara Sea, and back. The aircraft will fly as low as possible over the ocean to try to identify methane hot spots and plumes. At the same time RV Helmer Hanssen is in the Barents sea, also doing atmospheric measurements.
Special thanks for the excellent work so far to those that were very active the last weeks!!