The continental margin off Prins Karls Forland, western Svalbard, is characterized by widespread natural gas seepage into the water column at and upslope of the gas hydrate stability zone. We deployed an ocean bottom seismometer integrated into the MASOX (Monitoring Arctic Seafloor-Ocean Exchange) automated seabed observatory at the pinch-out of this zone at 389 m water depth to investigate passive seismicity over a continuous 297 day period from 13 October 2010. An automated triggering algorithm was applied to detect over 220,000 short duration events (SDEs) defined as having a duration of less than 1 s. The analysis reveals two different types of SDEs, each with a distinctive characteristic seismic signature. We infer that the first type consists of vocal signals generated by moving mammals, likely finback whales. The second type corresponds to signals with a source within a few hundred meters of the seismometer, either due east or west, that vary on short (∼tens of days) and seasonal time scales. Based on evidence of prevalent seafloor seepage and subseafloor gas accumulations, we hypothesize that the second type of SDEs is related to subseafloor fluid migration and gas seepage. Furthermore, we postulate that the observed temporal variations in microseismicity are driven by transient fluid release and due to the dynamics of thermally forced, seasonal gas hydrate decomposition. Our analysis presents a novel technique for monitoring the duration, intensity, and periodicity of fluid migration and seepage at the seabed and can help elucidate the environmental controls on gas hydrate decomposition and release. © 2017. The Authors.
Chemistry and Pharmacology