Methane Emissions: Northern Lakes Release Massive, Increasing Amounts Of Gas

First Posted: Jan 13, 2016 03:29 PM EST

Methane is among some of the most potent greenhouses gases that are emitted from human activities. In this latest study, researchers found that some of the largest and increasing amounts of methane emissions are generated from northern lakes.

"The release of methane from northern lakes and ponds needs to be taken seriously. These waters are significant, contemporary sources because they cover large parts of the landscape," Martin Wik, lead author of the study from Stockholm University, said in a news release. "They are also likely to emit even more methane in the future."

Methane gas is constantly increasing in Earth's atmosphere, however, many of its sources are still poorly understood. In their study, the researchers combined reported measurements from 733 northern water bodies, which included lakes and ponds formed from permafrost thaw or ice-sheets, so that they can make an accurate estimate over large scales.

The researchers found that with increasing climate warming in high northern latitudes, longer ice-free seasons combined with permafrost thaw generated methane releases from lakes. These emissions will likely increase between 20-50 percent before the end of the century, according to the researchers.

"This means that efforts to reduce human induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimize this type of feedback of natural greenhouse gas emissions," said David Bastviken, coauthor of the study from Linkoping University. "In a sense, every reduction in emissions from fossil fuels is a double victory."

The findings of this study were published in Nature Geoscience.

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