Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lakes Boiling With Methane Discovered In Alaska

Date:
September 15, 2007
Source:
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Summary:
A lake in Alaska was found violently boiling with escaping methane. Scientists are studying methane emissions from arctic lakes, especially the connection between thawing permafrost and climate change. As permafrost around a lake's edges thaws, the organic material in it -- dead plants and animals -- can enter the lake bottom, where bacteria convert it to methane, which bubbles into the atmosphere, sometimes in a spectacular fashion. Methane hotspots can come from various sources, not just thawing permafrost.

Graduate students Sudipta Sarkar, center, and Laura Brosius, left, and researcher Katey Walter pose near a large pocket of methane frozen in the ice of a thermokarst lake in Interior Alaska in October 2007.
Credit: Photo by Dragos Vas

Last month, UAF researcher Katey Walter brought a National Public Radio crew to Alaska’s North Slope, hoping to show them examples of what happens when methane is released when permafrost thaws beneath lakes.

Related Articles


When they reached their destination, Walter and the crew found even more than they bargained for: a lake violently boiling with escaping methane.

“It was cold, wet and windy. We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere by a helicopter and paddled out to a huge methane plume in the middle of the lake with no idea what to expect, how strong the bubbling plume would be, whether or not our raft would stay afloat, how dangerous it would be to breath the gas,” said Walter, an assistant professor in UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering and International Arctic Research Center. “The violent streams of bubbles made the lake appear as if it were boiling, but the water was pretty cold."

Walter studies methane emissions from arctic lakes, especially the connection between thawing permafrost and climate change. As permafrost around a lake’s edges thaws, the organic material in it--dead plants and animals--can enter the lake bottom, where bacteria convert it to methane, which bubbles into the atmosphere, sometimes in a spectacular fashion. Methane is much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Walter said this summer’s fieldwork indicates that methane hotspots, such as the one she and the crew experienced, can come from various sources, not just thawing permafrost. Her next goal is to identify and quantify the sources of the methane hotspots around Alaska.

“It is unlikely that this methane plume was related to permafrost thaw,” said Walter, adding that the methane boiling out of the lake was more likely related to natural gas seepage. “Should large quantities of methane be released from methane hydrates, for instance, in association with permafrost thaw, then we could have large sudden increases in atmospheric methane with potentially large affects on global temperatures.”

Walter’s project is one of many at UAF happening as part of the International Polar Year, an international event that will focus research efforts and public attention on the Earth’s polar regions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alaska Fairbanks. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Lakes Boiling With Methane Discovered In Alaska." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911092139.htm>.
University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2007, September 15). Lakes Boiling With Methane Discovered In Alaska. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911092139.htm
University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Lakes Boiling With Methane Discovered In Alaska." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911092139.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 6, 2015) — Pollution in China has gone viral with a documentary highlighting the problems caused by major industries. But awareness may not be enough to clean up dirty producers. Jane Lanhee Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

AP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A shortage of snow has forced Alaska&apos;s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to move 300 miles north to Fairbanks. The ceremonial start through downtown Anchorage will take place this weekend, using snow stockpiled earlier this winter. (March 6) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Weather agencies say an El Niño event is officially underway, but they called for it months ago and warned it would be way stronger than it is. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — A strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. has dumped deep snow in some regions, creating hazardous conditions from Kentucky to New England. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins