Russia has successfully tested a new method for studying the thawing of underwater permafrost, it consists in observing the seismic activity of the ocean, the press service of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IO RAS) told TASS.
The university noted that as part of a pilot project in the area of the Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, self-floating bottom stations were installed that act as seismographs. During the voyage of the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh vessel in October 2019, Russian scientists tested the installations for the first time, submerging them to a depth of 80 and 320 meters, and received the first results of the technology application. “Scientists have managed to register many earthquakes, which allows localizing the centers of methane accumulation and assessing the scale of melting underwater permafrost,” the message says.
Bottom stations can be on the seabed for up to two years at a depth of up to six kilometers. Thanks to them, the researchers of the IO RAS were able to register many instrumental and local earthquakes associated with methane emissions. This information helps to detect foci of gas accumulation and to assess the level of degradation of underwater permafrost.
The institute added that a detailed analysis of annual seismic observations in the future will make it possible to estimate the volume of methane emissions and study the man-made causes of oceanic earthquakes.
About 80 percent of the underwater permafrost of the World Ocean is located in the shelf area of the Russian eastern Arctic seas. The melting of these layers occurs due to the fact that its temperature is 8-10 degrees higher than the ground permafrost. When ice turns into water, methane dissolved in the permafrost is released. Powerful gas escapes increase the greenhouse effect.