Canadian Arctic

During my postdoc at the University of British Columbia, I investigated the cycling of the potent greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in the Canadian Arctic. The rapid environmental changes occurring in the Arctic, which is warming at least two times faster than the global average, have the potential to alter greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, potentially creating significant climate feedbacks.

We collected over 2000 measurements of CH4 and N2O from coast guard icebreakers, conducted helicopter-based sampling of rivers in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and collected a year-round time-series at the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.


Seasonality of CH4 emissions in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
(Manning et al., 2020, Geophysical Research Letters)

We collected year-round time-series of CH4 measurements in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in a river and estuary. We have demonstrated that extremely high CH4 concentrations occur in riverine and estuarine waters during the spring melt period (50 to 1000 times greater than the concentrations throughout the rest of the year), and that this CH4 is rapidly ventilated to the atmosphere when ice cover retreats. In 2018, we used a robotic kayak (the WHOI ChemYak) to obtain three-dimensional maps of CH4 and CO2 distributions during this dynamic melt period. An interview with my coauthor Dr. Anna Michel, one of the developers of the ChemYak is available from WHOI Oceanus and a science highlight is available on the US Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry website.

Video of the ChemYak in Cambridge Bay, featuring study coauthors Victoria Preston and Kevin Manganini. Video by C. Manning

The ChemYak sampling near the ice edge. Photo by C. Manning.


A multi-year record of greenhouse gas distributions across the North American Arctic Ocean

We collected over 2000 observations of methane and nitrous oxide at  repeat stations across the North American Arctic Ocean in collaboration with ArcticNet/Amundsen Science and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The measurements from 2015-2018 allow us to observe interannual variability in gas distributions and provide a benchmark against which future climate-driven changes can be evaluated. This paper is currently in preparation and was recently presented as a poster at the US Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry workshop.

Measurements of methane and nitrous oxide from six stations sampled each year from 2015-2018.


The CCGS Amundsen in the Canadian Arctic Ocean in 2017. Photo by C. Manning.


Nitrogen cycling and circulation in Baffin Bay investigated with isotopic measurements of N2, N2O, and NO3

Abstract of presentation at the 2020 Ocean Sciences Meeting:

Baffin Bay is a marginal sea connecting Pacific waters traveling through the Arctic to the North Atlantic via the adjacent Labrador Sea. Pacific source waters entering Baffin Bay via the Canadian Arctic Archipelago have a fixed nitrogen (N) deficit as a result of denitrification, while the North Atlantic is a site of significant nitrogen fixation.  Here we use isotopic and concentration measurements of NO3, N2O, and N2 in Baffin Bay and surrounding waters to determine water mass origins and quantify fixed N sources and sinks. The long residence time of Baffin Bay Bottom Water allows distinctive geochemical signatures to accumulate. Excess N2O and N2 in basin deep waters, as well as a fixed N deficit (negative N*), indicate that sedimentary denitrification of organic matter is a significant fixed nitrogen sink within Baffin Bay. Isotopomeric measurements of N2O, which show strong enrichments in δ18O with depth, indicate that N2O derived from incomplete denitrification has diffused out of the sediments and into the water column.  We quantify the excess N2 from denitrification using clumped isotope measurements (for the first time in an oceanic setting) and compare the results with N2/Ar-based estimates of excess N2 from denitrification.  Isotopic measurements of NO3 suggest that the sedimentary denitrification is fueled by remineralization of organic matter produced in northern Baffin Bay, thereby regulating the nutrient inventories that are exchanged with adjacent oceanic regions. This study demonstrates that coupled isotopic measurements of multiple nitrogen species provide new insights into biogeochemical cycling and water mass circulation in a rapidly changing Arctic system.

A self portrait of a very happy oceanographer holding a sample of Baffin Bay Bottom Water! It took me three Arctic cruises to finally sample this water!