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Methane and nitrous oxide in surface water along the North-West Passage, Arctic Ocean

Journal article
Authors V. Kitidis
Robert C. Upstill-Goddard
Leif G Anderson
Published in Marine Chemistry
Volume 121
Issue 1-4
Pages 80-86
ISSN 0304-4203
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Chemistry
Pages 80-86
Language en
Keywords Arctic zone; Polar waters; Methane; Nitrous oxide; Greenhouse effect; Sea ice
Subject categories Chemical Sciences


Dissolved methane and nitrous oxide in seawater were measured along a 6700 km transect of the North-West Passage between the North Atlantic Ocean and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Over- and under-saturation with respect to atmospheric equilibrium were observed for both gases. Methane and nitrous oxide were in the range of 58–528% and 82–181% saturation, respectively. Under-saturation was attributed to melt-water with low methane and nitrous oxide, while over-saturation was found under multi-year sea-ice. Elevated methane was also found in the vicinity of the marginal ice zones and the Mackenzie River plume. Our data support both water column and sedimentary sources of methane and nitrous oxide. We found first-order methane oxidation in surface seawater with a rate constant of 3.8 × 10−3 h−1. Based on these results and a conceptual model, we suggest that future sea-ice retreat may decrease the residence times of methane and nitrous oxide in the surface Arctic Ocean and thus enhance the sea–air flux of these climatically active gases.

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