Walking blindly across ponds in the Interior of Alaska can lead to wet feet, and sometimes much worse.
Methane being released from the pond bottom, causes the ice to thin directly above the pocket of methane. With no snow to speak of right now, the pockets are easy to find. This one has caused a perfect hole to form in the ice.
Katey Walter Anthony & a member of her methane hunting team, with high tech tools
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
While working on a job a while back, I suddenly was aware of the sound of running water. Almost like the sound of a fountain. Interior Alaska had a lot of snow over the winter, so there was standing water everywhere, but moving water had me curious, so I went off towards the sound.
I came to a water hole that only fills up after break up. By the end of June it would probably be dried up. But now, it was full, and in the middle of the large puddle, was a water fountain. Initially, the stream of water went up 3-4 feet above the surface of the puddle. By the time I decided to hike back to my truck to get my phone, it had dropped down to 5-6 inches. From the time I heard the water, to the time the puddle stopped percolating, was a good 90 minutes.
A pocket of methane below the service had suddenly found a way up to sunlight, and the release put on a good show. These pockets are being released all across the Arctic, and I live in a hot bed of that activity.