I was fortunate enough to join a group from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, when they toured an Interior Alaska lake, as a part of their ongoing study of methane.
With Alaska seeing the melting of its permafrost, the organic material that has been locked in the frozen ground for thousands of years, is now being released in the form of methane gas. Katey Walter Anthony, and her team, have been studying lakes throughout Interior Alaska for years, in order to get a better understanding of this transfer.
HBO was in town, with a group from Oslo, Norway, making a documentary. We all joined the fine folks from UAF out on some local lakes. Methane is being released year round, but in winter it is trapped under the ice. The ice often shows the tell tale signs of methane release: whether in the form of bubbles in the ice, or a thinning of the ice where the methane rises from the lake bed. An ice fishing chisel and torch can make for an interesting day out on an Alaskan lake.
Warning: Do not try this without the professionals from UAF!
Lakes all across the arctic are releasing methane at an astonishing rate.
Photos courtesy of Nicholas Hasson, UAF Geophysical Institute