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Keywords:

  • upwelling;
  • methane;
  • air-sea flux;
  • gas seepage

[1] Methane in surface waters and marine air off Oregon (44°24′N–44°54′N, 124°36′W–125°24′W) was continuously surveyed in July 1999. During a high-resolution survey after a period of steady winds from the north, CH4 concentrations were high in the northeastern region, near the shelf edge. The highest CH4 concentrations were 2.5 times higher than equilibrium with the atmospheric partial pressure. In contrast, concentrations were near equilibrium in the western part of the survey area, the Hydrate Ridge. The increase in CH4 from southwest to northeast correlates with a drop in sea surface temperature (SST), from 16.5°C to <13.5°C, toward the shelf edge. The observed SST pattern was caused by summer upwelling off Oregon. The results suggest that CH4 derived from bottom sources near the shelf/slope break and methane found in connection with shallow (100–300 m) turbidity layers is transported to the surface by coastal upwelling, which causes an enhanced net flux of CH4 to the atmosphere. Vertical profiles of the methane distribution on the shelf in October demonstrate the accumulation of methane introduced by shelf sources. Surface concentrations at these stations in October (during nonupwelling conditions) were lower than in July (during upwelling) and were only slightly oversaturated with respect to the atmosphere. An acoustic Doppler current profiler survey indicates that the observed trend cannot be attributed to a surface flow reversal in the area. The low-salinity waters in the core of the Columbia River plume (S < 31) showed no enhanced CH4 concentrations. The trend of higher CH4 concentrations at lower temperatures existed over the whole 17-day survey, but large spatial and temporal variations existed. The presence of methane sources in regions of coastal upwelling worldwide, such as shallow seeps, gas hydrates, and intermediate nepheloid layers, suggests that the enhancement of CH4 fluxes to the atmosphere by coastal upwelling occurs on a global scale.