Mission: Detect Arctic Methane

The rock room has been a space of design and construction for many CO2 soil profilers for arctic field sites, and this summer was no 3exception. Jack and I created an automated soil gas sampler, for the measurement of methane and CO2 from a series of soil depth chambers in northern Norway. The system included a one-metre long, encased, open path methane analyzer that consecutively received samples from the soil depth chambers. The methane analyzer was not at our disposal during system construction, so a surrogate analyzer was created  in the lab using a sealed compost bin equipped with a CO2 probe to mimic the 9L analyzer. It proved to be a great addition to the lab!
Late June Jack and I departed on a three-week journey to the Arctic. The first leg of our trip took us through Iceland to Bergen, where we had four days to work with the methane analyzer and get accustomed to the short nights before experiencing the midnight sun at 69oN. 2Then the whole team flew to Finnmark, the northernmost county of mainland Norway. We landed in Alta and drove a scenic three hours inland to the small town of Karasjok; the town campground was home base during our stay.
6The field site is located at a mire near Iskoras, a 30 minute drive from town and a 3 km walk from the road. The site was selected for its spatial representation of the stages of permafrost degradation. There are four transects throughout the mire, each with four subsites equipped with soil chambers at depth, temperature and moisture sensors, and open top chambers.
During the July visit, another team installed an eddy covariance tower that stayed for the duration of the summer. During the July visit, another team installed an eddy covariance tower that stayed for the duration of the summer. It was a busy, challenging and enjoyable 10 days in the field that entailed many hours armpit-deep in wet soil installing chambers and created an appreciation of the midnight  5sun’s convenience. We enjoyed frequent chocolate breaks, unique lunches like pickled mackerel on rye, and brown cheese. Quickly, we learned not to stand too still or the mosquitoes would have a feast!
When I returned in September the berries were plentiful, the midnight sun no longer shone, and the flies were still hungry. More soil chambers were installed; 48 depth chambers were spread throughout the four transects and six surface FD chambers, relocated from Svalbard, were installed at the automatic transect. The last day in the field was spent collecting gas samples, and prepping the equipment and site for the fast approaching winter.

7Many thanks to Dr. Hanna Lee, Dr. Casper Christiansen and Dr. Dave Risk for their guidance, expertise, and providing the opportunity to expand my field and technical experience throughout the development of this project.


By Renee McDonald