Methane Is Bubbling Up Through The Waters

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1It has been five years since University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Katey Walter Anthony took us to a frozen lake in Alaska. Yet, in light of study suggesting a similar phenomenon 1/3 of a mile beneath the oceans surface, her research is highly pertinent. Methane is bubbling up through the waters.

Methane Bubbles In Alaska

Dr Anthony took us to a frozen lake, where the ice was 27 meters thick.

“As it has been freezing up, methane gas has been coming out of the bottom and getting trapped in the lake ice. If you look at the shore there are lots of trees that are g=falling in the lake and they are dying. What’s happening is the permafrost is thawing. WHen the ice that was in the ground melts, it causes the ground to collapse. The forest folded and organice matter, dead animal remains, that were in the permafrost thaw out,” said Anthony.

Screenshot from the video "Hunting For Methane With Katey Walter Anthony."
Hunting For Methane With Katey Walter Anthony

“Methane doesn’t like to stay in the water. It forms bubbles which makes their way to the surface. In the summertime the bubbles popping into the atmospohere. In the winter bulles ket trapped under the ice. The ice thickens and freezes around them. So what we have here is like a time lapse photo of methane emissions on the lake”

In the video, the University of Alaska team lit the methane as they relased it from the frozen lake’s surface. It burst into a pilar of fire.

“Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. A molcule of methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide,” said Athony.

She says it is formed in millions of lakes around the Arctic, where frost is thawing. As temperatures continue to rise in the North, they will release ten times as much methane into the atmosphere presently exists.

Bubble Plumes Off The Coast

Map showing locations of the 168 bubble plumes used in the study. (Note the top two bulbs are off the coast of BC - RH) map courtesy University of Washington
Map showing locations of the 168 bubble plumes used in the study. (Note the top two bulbs are off the coast of BC – RH) map courtesy University of Washington

Now a similar phenomenon is occuring in the oceans off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Southern Vancouver Island.

“Methane has contributed to sudden swings in Earth’s climate in the past. It is unknown what role it might contribute to contemporary climate change, although recent studies have reported warming-related methane emissions in Arctic permafrost and off the Atlantic coast,” said H. Paul Johnson, lead author of the University of Washington study.

Top Photo Credit: Screenshot from the video “Hunting For Methane With Katey Walter Anthony.”

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