Quantifying gas ebullition with echosounder: the role of methane transport by bubbles in a medium-sized lake

I. Ostrovsky, D. F. McGinnis, L. Lapidus, W. Eckert

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 6:105-118 (2008) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2008.6.105

ABSTRACT: In lakes and reservoirs with variable water level, gas ebullition can play a substantial role in methane transport in the water column and to the atmosphere. However, measuring methane ebullition from sediment is difficult as releases are highly heterogeneous and intermittent on macro- and micro-scales. In contrast to conventional gas traps and optical methods, hydroacoustic technology allows rapid scanning over large volumes of the water column synoptically to quantify gas bubble abundance. A 120-kHz dual beam downward-looking echosounder was used to measure the size distributions of bubbles that do not resonate at the sonar frequency. Data obtained with this sonar permit accurate calculation and evaluation of ebullition flux from the bottom. A robust relationship was established between gas volumes and backscattering cross-section of individual bubbles in experimental conditions, and rise velocities of bubbles were precisely measured. The volume backscattering coefficient was shown to be a good gauge of the total volume of bubbles per cubic meter of water, allowing the use of a single-beam sonar for measuring volumetric bubble concentrations. Data obtained from hydroacoustic surveys on Lake Kinneret, where gaseous methane is emitted from randomly dispersed sediment sources, indicated that ~90% of bubbles escaping from soft sediments ranged from 1.3 mm to 4.5 mm and ~50% ranged from 2.0 mm to 3.2 mm in equivalent radius. In summer-fall 2001, the gaseous methane fluxes from hypolimnetic sediments was ~10 mmol m-2 d-1, accounting for one-third of the observed methane accumulation in the hypolimnion. This relatively high ebullition rate could be attributed to the gradual decreasing of the mean water level in preceding years.