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International Research and Education Laboratory for Study of Arctic Seas Carbon

Invited researcher Igor Petrovich Semiletov
Contract number
Time span of the project

As of 30.01.2020

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scientific publications
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General information

Name of the project: The Siberian Arctic shelf as a source of greenhouse gases of planet-wide significance: quantitative evaluation of flow and impact of possible economic and climatic consequences.

Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development Priority Level: е

Goals and objectives

Research directions:

- Enhancement and expansion of complex research aimed at clarification of the role the underwater permafrost, possible destabilization of hydrates, ascending gas flow from deep geological sources – processes that determine the extent of emissions of methane from precipitation into water and the atmosphere

- Determining and studying the main processes responsible for formation of the ancient organic matter pool of ground genesis in modern floor sediments

Project objective: Impact of characteristic features and evaluation pf the scale of spatial and temporal volatility of the main components of the carbon cycle on the Siberian Arctic shelf in the context of warming and permafrost degradation with a focus on the widest and the shallowest shelf of the World Ocean – Eastern Arctic seas (EAS) – as a source of greenhouse gases pf global significance.

The practical value of the study

  • We have numerically evaluated bubble methane flow on the shelf of Eastern Arctic seas (EAS) on the basis of complex biogeochemical, geophysical and geological research. It has been determined that depending on the state of underwater permafrost (data from core drilling, geophysical research and a modernized mathematical model) the extent of the flow can change bu 5 orders of magnitude – from milligrams to hundreds of grams per square meter every day.
  • By means of over 200 000 000 high precision measurements of atmospheric methane concentration and carbon dioxide and over 14 000 measurements of dissolved methane concentration we have determined that in abnormally high concentration of these forms of methane can be found in EAS. At the same time, the highest values of concentration of these gases were found in regions of massive emissions of bubble methane, where they reached values of up to 3,5–8,0 ppm – several times higher than the mean planetary concentration, which, according to fundamental principles of mass balance conservation requires the value of methane emissions from the ocean into the atmosphere starting from tens of grams of СН4 m-2day-1 to up to over 100 grams of СН4 m-2day-1.
  • Over the course of two years we have conducted field measurements at the Polar Geophysical Observatory using equipment identical to that used in the sea. On the basis of these measurement it has been demonstrated in case of domination of Northern winds (from the sea) the concentration of atmospheric methane rose to 2,4–2,6 ppm and that ground ecosystems of the North (Yakutia) are a less significant source of atmospheric methane (near-background concentration have been measured in the context of dominating Southern winds).
  • It has been demonstrated that bubble emissions of methane come not only from regions of the Laptev Sea with high seismotectonic but also from regions of EAS shelf that are passive in geological sense and from marine lagoons. It is supposed that discovery of powerful bubble methane emissions found in the central part of the East Siberian Sea can signify presence of an abnormal geothermal flow which contradicts the accepted paradigm on seismotectonic passivity of the East Siberian Sea.
  • Our research has proven the hypothesis stating that observable methane anomalies on the EAS shelf have various geneses including thermogenic, biogenic and, possible, abiogenic. By reviewing isotope characteristics (δ13С-СН4, δ14С-СН4, δD-СН4) of various types of methane and data obtained in water and rainfall (core samples) of the Laptev Sea it follows that in reviewed samples there is gas from all the known sources while methane found in the East Siberian Se, mast probably, are mostly thermogenic. On the basis of research of over 500 samples we came to a conclusion that range of variability of ethane isotope composition (δ13С-СН4, δ14С-СН4, δD-СН4) goes beyond the limits of the range of all the previously known isotope data which requires additional interdisciplinary research.
  • We have demonstrated possibility of ascendant dripping of light petroleum hydrocarbons on the basis of analysis of distribution of odd and even n-alkanes in surface sediments in the region of massive bubble methane emissions in the Laptev Sea ad in a 40-meter drilling center drawn in the Ivashkinskaya Lagoon. This signifies presence of deep-sea migration paths of gas-liquid fluid even in a lagoon – a former thermokarst lake that was joined to the sea recently on the geological scale.
  • It has been demonstrated over the course of the last eight years the square of the areal of distribution of СН4 from EAS into the atmosphere (concentration of dissolved СН4 is higher than 20 nanomol) increased by 8 to 10 times which demonstrates progressing degradation of the underwater permafrost that is way more rapid than expected.
  • Our researchers have proven that the main factor determining significant oversaturation of the waters of EAS with carbon dioxide (abnormally high рСО2 values in the surface waters) and extreme acidification of the waters of EAS are the increasing impact of river runoff and degradation of multi-annual permafrost which manifests itself in an increase of the amount of erosion surface organic matter mineralizing on the shelf as well as growth of the surface waters temperature in the context of ice cover on the Arctic seas.
  • For the first time we have found volatility of surface organic matter of various geneses over the last 9500 years. It turned out that for the whole time erosion carbon dominated. at the same time this signal is expressed more clearly in the Eastern SIberia Sea than in the Laptev Sea because pf the former having higher impact of soil light organic matter.

Implemented results of research: The useful model «A device for estimation of gas flow transferred by bubbles surfacing in bodies of water», the useful model «A device for estimation of gas flow transferred by surfacing bubbles exiting from the floor of a body of water», the invention «A method for determining backwater effect during ice gorges and jams».

Education and career development:

  • 4 doctoral dissertations, 9 candidate dissertations, two master degree theses and two bachelor degree theses have been defended.
  • Internships have been organized at the Stockholm University (Sweden, 2014-2015), the Research Institute for Chromatography (Belgium, 2015), the University of Naples Federico II (Italy, 2017), and the National University of Science and Technology «MISiS» (Russia, 2015).
  • Lectures have been read for students including those by invited speakers from Russian and Western universities.

Organizational and structural changes: Creation of the International Arctic Siberian Research Center on the basis of the Laboratory

Other results:

  • Over 100 scientific presentations at the national ad the world level including the Fall session of the American Geophysical Union (over 20 thousand participants from 200 countries) (2015).
  • On the grounds of the Stockholm University we have organized and run the second Arctic Workshop 2018 within the work of the International Arctic Siberian Research Center – «Cryosphere – carbon – climate of the Siberian Arctic: current state and prospect». The First Arctic Partnership FOrum was held at the Tomsk State University in November 2016.


  • Stockholm University (Sweden): joint research, exchange of postgraduates and young researchers, collaborative scientific events, joint publications
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (USA): joint research and publications, exchange of young researchers
  • University of Gothenburg (Sweden): joint research, collaborative scientific events, joint publications
  • Utrecht University (the Netherlands), University of Manchester (United Kingdom), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the Netherlands), University of Brussels (Belgium), University of Alaska Fairbanks (USA), University of Georgia at Athens (USA): joint research publications

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Semiletov I., Pipko I., Gustafsson Ö., Anderson L.G., Sergienko V., Pugach S., Dudarev O., Charkin A., Gukov A., Bröder L., Andersson A., Spivak E., Shakhova N.
Acidification of East Siberian Arctic Shelf Waters through Addition of Freshwater and Terrestrial Carbon. Nature Geoscience 9(5): 361–365 (2016).
Shakhova N., Semiletov I., Sergienko V., Lobkovsky L., Yusupov V., Salyuk A., Salomatin A., Chernykh D., Kosmach D., Panteleev G., Nicolsky D., Samarkin V., Joye S., Charkin A., Dudarev O., Meluzov A. and Gustafsson Ö.
The East Siberian Arctic Shelf: Towards Further Assessment of Permafrost-Related Methane Fluxes and Role of Sea Ice. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 373(2052): 2014.0451 (2015).
Shakhova N., Semiletov I., Leifer I., Sergienko V., Salyuk A., Kosmach D., Chernykh D., Stubbs C., Nicolsky D., Tumskoy V., et al.
Ebullition and Storm-Induced Methane Release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Nature Geoscience 7 (1): 64–70 (2014).
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