Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 191–203 | Cite as

A modified gas hydrate-geomorphological model for a new discovery of enigmatic craters and seabed mounds in the Central Barents Sea, Norway

  • Francis Chantel NixonEmail author
  • Shyam Chand
  • Terje Thorsnes
  • Lilja Rún Bjarnadóttir


Hundreds of newly discovered gas seeps, craters, and mounds are presented from the central Barents Sea, Norway. Where they occur together, the crater-mound pairs have a preferred orientation towards the southeast. According to complex cross-cutting relationships with iceberg ploughmarks, both the craters and mounds formed during deglaciation (ca. 11–13 ka BP). Free gas, trapped beneath shallow gas hydrates in discrete areas, deformed or displaced overlying bedrock and sediment, forming mounds. Over-steepened slopes, weak layers, fractured bedrock, and unstable sediment resulted in small landslides towards the southeast: the direction of regional slope. In some cases, the highly buoyant, hydrate-cored sediment mounds may have instead, detached and floated with bottom currents before being re-deposited, either locally or distally. In this scenario, southeasterly flowing bottom currents would also explain the preferred orientation of the observed crater-mound pairs. Crater collapse would have occurred simultaneously or subsequently to landslide or detachment and floating due to the rapid dissociation of any remaining gas hydrates; a result of attendant regional changes in temperature and pressure following deglaciation and local removal of overlying sediment. The model of formation developed in this study explains the southeasterly trend in crater-mound orientation, but differs from other studies that interpret modern mounds, located elsewhere in the Barents Sea, as gas hydrate-cored.



We gratefully acknowledge Kartverket (The Norwegian Hydrographic Service), the Geological Survey of Norway, and MAREANO for providing the high-resolution bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, and water column backscatter data used in this study. Thanks also to Edward L. King, Geological Survey of Canada, for his insightful comments on our interpretations of the data, and to two anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Survey of NorwayTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Department of GeographyNTNUTrondheimNorway

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