Large and increasing methane emissions from northern lakes

January 4, 2016
Post-glacial lakes in Stordalen, northern Sweden. Credit: Jo Uhlbäck.

Methane is increasing in the atmosphere, but many sources are poorly understood. Lakes at high northern latitudes are such a source. However, this may change with a new study published in Nature Geoscience. By compiling previously reported measurements made at a total of 733 northern water bodies - from small ponds formed by beavers to large lakes formed by permafrost thaw or ice-sheets - researchers are able to more accurately estimate emissions over large scales.

"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. They are also likely to emit even more methane in the future", says Martin Wik, PhD student at the Department of Geological Sciences and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, who led the study.

With , particularly at high northern latitudes, longer ice-free seasons in combination with is likely to fuel from lakes, potentially causing their emissions to increase 20-50 precent before the end of this century. Such a change would likely generate a positive feedback on future warming, causing emissions to increase even further.

"This means that efforts to reduce human induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimize this type of feedback of natural . In a sense, every reduction in emissions from fossil fuels is a double victory", says David Bastviken, Professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University.

Explore further: Global warming will be faster than expected, news study concludes

More information: Climate-sensitive northern lakes and ponds are critical components of methane release, Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2578

Related Stories

Advanced new camera can measure greenhouse gases

November 30, 2015

A camera so advanced that it can photograph and film methane in the air around us is now presented by a team of researchers from Linköping and Stockholm Universities. It can be an important part of the efforts to measure ...

Northern lakes act as CO2 chimneys in a warming world

November 10, 2015

Many of the world's approximately 117 million lakes act as wet chimneys releasing large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, into the atmosphere. The most recent estimates show that CO2 emissions from the world's ...

Global warming in the Canadian Arctic

November 18, 2013

Ph.D. student Karita Negandhi and professor Isabelle Laurion from INRS'Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre, in collaboration with other Canadian, U.S., and French researchers, have been studying methane emissions produced ...

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2016
Thanks to Exxon and cruel and ignorant politicians and executives in corporations, we have entered the zone of positive feedback. The party is over.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2016
I wonder if the ice-free corridor in prehistoric Alaska was created by a methane river transported from Siberia on the jet stream that rained-out over the range?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.