Discovery and quantification of a widespread methane ebullition event in a coastal inlet (Baltic Sea) using a novel sonar strategy

How much of the greenhouse gas methane is transported from the seafloor to the atmosphere is unclear. Here, we present data describing an extensive ebullition event that occurred in Eckernförde Bay, a shallow gas-hosting coastal inlet in the Baltic Sea, in the fall of 2014. A weak storm induced hydrostatic pressure fluctuations that in turn stimulated gas ebullition from the seabed. In a finely tuned sonar survey of the bay, we obtained a hydroacoustic dataset with exceptionally high sensitivity for bubble detection. This allowed us to identify 2849 bubble seeps rising within 28 h from the seafloor across the 90 km² study site. Based on our calculations, the estimated bubble-driven episodic methane flux from the seafloor across the bay is 1,900 μMol m-2 d-1. Our study demonstrates that storm-associated fluctuations of hydrostatic pressure induce bulk gas-driven ebullitions. Given the extensive occurrence of shallow gas-hosting sediments in coastal seas, similar ebullition events probably take place in many parts of the Western Baltic Sea. However, these are likely to be missed during field investigations, due to the lack of high-quality data acquisition during storms, such that atmospheric inputs of marine-derived methane will be highly underestimated.

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