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iAMES: An inexpensive, Automated Methane Ebullition Sensor

Maher, Damien T, Drexl, Michael, Tait, Douglas R, Johnston, Scott G, Jeffrey, Luke C
Environmental science & technology 2019 v.53 no.11 pp. 6420-6426
aquatic environment, automation, batteries, global methane budget, lakes, methane, sensors (equipment), thermal conductivity, uncertainty, wetlands, United States
Atmospheric concentrations of methane have increased ∼2.4 fold since the industrial revolution with wetlands and inland waters representing the largest source of methane to the atmosphere. Substantial uncertainties remain in global methane budgets, due in part to the lack of adequate techniques and detailed measurements to assess ebullition in aquatic environments. Here, we present details of a low cost (∼$120 US per unit) ebullition sensor that autonomously logs both volumetric ebullition rate and methane concentrations. The sensor combines a traditional funnel bubble trap with an Arduino logger, a pressure sensor, thermal conductivity methane sensor, and a solenoid valve. Powered by three AA batteries, the sensor can measure autonomously for three months when programmed for a sampling frequency of 30 min. For field testing, four sensors were deployed for six weeks in a small lake. While ebullition was spatially and temporally variable, a distinct diurnal trend was observed with the highest rates from mid-morning to early afternoon. Ebullition rates were similar for all four sensors when integrated over the sampling period. The widespread deployment of low cost automated ebullition sensors such as the iAMES described here will help constrain one of the largest uncertainties in the global methane budget.