Climate Change

An underground route to the atmosphere

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Science  20 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6228, pp. 1326
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6228.1326-e

Arctic lakes, like this one in eastern Greenland, could emit more methane due to climate warming

PHOTO: PIERRE VERNAY / POLAR LYS / SCIENCE SOURCE

As climate changes and temperatures rise, so do concerns that methane emissions from the Arctic may increase, because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Arctic lakes are known to be an important source of methane, but the origins of their emissions are not well understood. Paytan et al. investigated Toolik Lake, Alaska, in order to determine what fraction of the methane it emits is from microbial activity within the lake versus how much is transported into the lake by groundwater. They find that groundwater supplies a major fraction of the lake's methane, which implies that if Arctic warming causes this type of groundwater flow to increase, then the methane flux from lakes to the atmosphere could grow as well.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1417392112 (2015)

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