Using Carbon Isotope Fractionation to Constrain the Extent of Methane Dissolution Into the Water Column Surrounding a Natural Hydrocarbon Gas Seep in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. A gas bubble seep located in the northern Gulf of Mexico was investigated over several days to determine whether changes in the stable carbon isotopic ratio of methane can be used as a tracer for methane dissolution through the water column. Gas bubble and water samples were collected at the seafloor and throughout the water column for isotopic ratio analysis of methane. Our results show that changes in methane isotopic ratios are consistent with laboratory experiments that measured the isotopic fractionation from methane dissolution. A Rayleigh isotope model was applied to the isotope data to determine the fraction of methane dissolved at each depth. On average, the fraction of methane dissolved surpasses 90% past an altitude of 400m above the seafloor. Methane dissolution was also investigated using a modified version of the Texas A&M Oil spill (Outfall) Calculator (TAMOC) where changes in methane isotopic ratios could be calculated. The TAMOC model results show that dissolution depends on depth and bubble size, explaining the spread in measured isotopic ratios during our investigations. Both the Rayleigh and TAMOC models show that methane bubbles quickly dissolve following emission from the seafloor. Together, these results show that it is possible to use measurements of natural methane isotopes to constrain the extent of methane dissolution following seafloor emission.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Leonte, M., Wang, B., Socolofsky, S. A., Mau, S., Breier, J. A., & Kessler, J. D.

citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors

  • Leonte, M||Wang, B||Socolofsky, SA||Mau, S||Breier, JA||Kessler, JD

publication date

  • November 2018