Oct 14, 2022

The Nasty Surprise Bubbling Up in Alaska’s Brand New Lakes

Thawing ice caps are creating brand new lakes in Alaska, but unlike the rest of the state’s gorgeous scenery, tourists probably won’t be flocking to see them anytime soon.

Known as thermokarst lakes, or thaw lakes, they form when permafrost thaws due to rising temperatures collapsing the ground and forming a sinkhole.

Water eventually fills the newly formed hole, creating a lake that’s teeming with methane-belching bacteria.

Permafrost thaw ponds in Hudson Bay Canada near Greenland The Nasty Surprise Bubbling Up in Alaskas Brand New Lakes

Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so the lakes are further fueling the climate crisis that created them in the first place.

NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) project is studying the formation of these thermokarst lakes to see how they might be impacting the wider environment. Katey Walter Anthony, an ecologist on the project, blogged about the facts of the matter.

 The Nasty Surprise Bubbling Up in Alaskas Brand New Lakes

Image Credit: NASA

“At Big Trail Lake, it’s like opening your freezer door for the first time and giving all the food in your freezer to microbes to decompose. As they decompose it, they are belching out methane gas.”

Permafrost is melting all over the world at an extremely high rate, and at Big Trail Lake, the bacteria are producing such high quantities of gas that there are visible bubbles rising to the lake’s surface.

Permafrost in Herschel Island 002 The Nasty Surprise Bubbling Up in Alaskas Brand New Lakes

Image Credit: Boris Radosavljevic

As the permafrost melts and bacteria re-animate, they belch greenhouse gases that waft into the atmosphere, trapping heat and contributing to even more climate change – and methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Add this to the long list of concerns when it comes to the melting permafrost, though it sounds as if we may want to bump it up toward the top.

twistedsifter on facebook The Nasty Surprise Bubbling Up in Alaskas Brand New Lakes