Carbon isotope (δ13C) excursions suggest times of major methane release during the last 14 kyr in Fram Strait, the deep-water gateway to the Arctic
Abstract. We present results from a sediment core collected from a pockmark field on the Vestnesa Ridge (~ 80° N) in the eastern Fram Strait. This is the only deep-water gateway to the Arctic, and one of the northernmost marine gas hydrate provinces in the world. Eight 14C AMS dates reveal a detailed chronology for the last 14 ka BP. The δ 13C record measured on the benthonic foraminiferal species Cassidulina neoteretis shows two distinct intervals with negative values termed carbon isotope excursion (CIE I and CIE II, respectively). The values were as low as −4.37‰ in CIE I, correlating with the Bølling–Allerød interstadials, and as low as −3.41‰ in CIE II, correlating with the early Holocene. In the Bølling–Allerød interstadials, the planktonic foraminifera also show negative values, probably indicating secondary methane-derived authigenic precipitation affecting the foraminiferal shells. After a cleaning procedure designed to remove authigenic carbonate coatings on benthonic foraminiferal tests from this event, the 13C values are still negative (as low as −2.75‰). The CIE I and CIE II occurred during periods of ocean warming, sea-level rise and increased concentrations of methane (CH4) in the atmosphere. CIEs with similar timing have been reported from other areas in the North Atlantic, suggesting a regional event. The trigger mechanisms for such regional events remain to be determined. We speculate that sea-level rise and seabed loading due to high sediment supply in combination with increased seismic activity as a result of rapid deglaciation may have triggered the escape of significant amounts of methane to the seafloor and the water column above.