Claim: Large and increasing methane emissions from northern lakes

From STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY and the “methane bomb is so yesterday” department:

These are post-glacial lakes in Stordalen, northern Sweden. CREDIT Photo credit: Jo Uhlbäck.

These are post-glacial lakes in Stordalen, northern Sweden. CREDIT Photo 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 climate warming, particularly at high northern latitudes, longer ice-free seasons in combination with permafrost thaw is likely to fuel methane release 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 greenhouse gas emissions. In a sense, every reduction in emissions from fossil fuels is a double victory”, says David Bastviken, Professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University.

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Here is the current graph of methane concentration at the Mauna Loa observatory, plus a graph to 2005  with latitude component:

Mlo_ch4_ts_obs_03437

img_global_methane

They note on their web page:

Methane was steadily increasing in the 1980’s, it’s growth rate slowed in the 1990’s, and it has had a near-zero growth rate for the last few years.

Source: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/programs/esrl/methane/methane.html

From the graph, it appears that methane is mostly a northern hemisphere problem, most likely due to leaks from natural gas wells, and distribution systems, which is a relatively easy to solve problem. For example:

The ‘methane hotspot’ identified in the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest can be fixed with some preventative maintenence

Then there’s the natural component, in the Atlantic:

Natural methane seeps off the U.S. coast may have been active for thousands of years. CREDIT: 2013 NORTHEAST U.S. CANYONS EXPEDITION/NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER PROGRAM

Natural methane seeps off the U.S. coast may have been active for thousands of years. CREDIT: 2013 NORTHEAST U.S. CANYONS EXPEDITION/NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER PROGRAM

The Atlantic is leaking methane – but researchers say there’s no cause for alarm

And then there’s these two studies:

The ‘Arctic Methane Emergency’ appears canceled due to methane eating bacteria
New paper debunks the “Permafrost Bomb”

I just can’t get too worked up about Arctic methane. Even Gavin Schmidt thinks it is implausible:

Gavin on why the Arctic methane alarm is implausible

36 thoughts on “Claim: Large and increasing methane emissions from northern lakes

  1. I suspect “they” will never give up trying to scare us all into conforming to what they want us to conform to!

    • Something I never understood about these methane claims. Our meat production only recently passed levels of big game as the large herds humans have killed and eaten the last 12k years or so. So take the emotion out of it and humans are only creating a little more then nature had been with our meat production. The largest natural source is from wetlands and humans have drained most of these globally, so they no longer function as they once did something Ive never seen factored into any human contribution to this topic. You cant ignore several of the base ways humans have changed global methane levels while proclaiming we are changing it in negative ways. Well apparently you can but it is lame and inaccurate. Rice cultivation is another major source and I found it funny when a group made a GM version of rice that had a barley gene in it and it nearly eliminated methane output from rice fields several green related groups I saw mention this thought it was bad and would upset life cycles to lower methane from our rice production. Hard to question a GM product that put a barley gene into rice when both are edible grains.

    • forgot to label the link, it is a study also of arctic lakes with the exact opposite conclusion, they are a net sink according to this.

  2. There’s no other way to put it; these people are sick in the head. They basically hate humanity, and by virtue of being anti-carbon are anti-life. Every reduction in carbon emissions is a “double-victory”? For whom? Space aliens wishing to destroy humanity so they can take over the planet?

  3. ” For whom? Space aliens wishing to destroy humanity so they can take over the planet? ?

    Oh No !! A new ” Conspiracy Theory ” is born……….LOL

  4. “…Martin Wik, PhD student at the Department of Geological Sciences and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, who led the study.”

    May I politely recommend, in consideration of what’s been occuring in Sweden lately (and in Germany over the New Year’s Eve holiday), that the safety, security, longevity, and living standards (which include gay, women’s, religious, and individual rights) for Sweden and Western Europe might be better served if Martin Wik changed his PhD studies to law enforcement.

  5. As I have written on this blog in the past, natural gas rises around the earth
    continuously but unevenly. Most is not fossil, it is antibiotic.

    Note that I wrote natural gas, not just methane. When properly tested, the
    ethane, propane, et.al are noted. See Giuseppe Etiope’s work.

    The reason most researchers call it methane is that they use a Flame
    Ionization Detector (FID) which tests for a flammable gas only, and
    as they are expecting methane, they call the resulting positive test
    methane. Confirmation bias.

    When a gas chromatic graph is used the other gases are identified.

    When natural gas rises through soil with adequate moisture to support
    the microbes which consume it, the topsoil is enriched.

    Measurements of this gas cannot be applied generally. Large amounts perk
    through the soil in the Ukraine, In places the topsoil is 2 meters thick.

    In Kansas I have tested topsoil which is more than 1 meter thick. In Atlanta,
    the granite shield is at or near the surface, blocking the gas, so the
    topsoil is poor to non existent.

    In the Amazon, there are patches of very rich soil, called Terra Preta,
    supported by plumes of natural gas existing, next to poor yellow jungle
    soil. These plots are erroneously thought to created by humans.

    The hydrocarbons emitted from rice paddies when they are flooded are
    also called human emissions. In fact, the natural gas which rises through
    the topsoil is consumed by the culture when the paddies are fallow. When
    they are flooded, the microbes being aerobic, cannot consume the gas,
    so it rises unoxidized.

    I have not read the study of the genetically altered rice, but I see no way
    that the cultivar would alter the fallow emissions.

    As the earth warms gently in a warm cycle, natural gas rises more readily.

    A good example is the way oxidized and unoxidized natural gas is slowed
    by frozen soil in the rich areas of the northern plains of North America. When
    the soil thaws, the culture oxidizes most but not all of it and it rises as CO2
    or natural gas.

    No one knows how much of the gasses rise, therefore no one knows how
    much CO2 nor natural gas should be attributed to this natural phenomenon.

    • The GM rice with a barley gene is legit and easy to verify if you drop it into a search. It does indeed have almost no methane emitted. Rather new work, it isnt commercial yet.

    • I predicted the abiotic rave would soon come up, and that it would come from someone with little understanding of petroleum geochemistry. Thanks for being so predictable.

  6. The y-axis are in ‘nmol’s. I had to look that up, it is nano-moles, or billionths of a mole. Is that because on the same scale as CO2, i.e. 100ths of a percent, it would be a flat line?

    • In the last half million years, methane has varied by about 1 part per million. So yes, that’s why it’s usually measured in parts per billion or molar fractions.

    • So in 1988, for every 6*10^23 molecules within air, there were 1.02*10^18 molecules of CH4, but now in 2015 there are 1.11*10^18 molecules of CH4 for every 6*10^23 molecules, a change of 0.000015%.

  7. Moderator, what is the problem with my comment?

    [Nothing “wrong” … Because of the thousands of spam “comments” received, we use a filter and a secondary “trigger list” of particular terms. Whatever drops into the “moderator queue” is checked and approved. But it takes a little bit of time. .mod]

  8. ‘“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.’

    The usual translation of this is: ‘give us another 3 – 5 years of grant money to keep studying this.’

  9. More empirical evidence! No, not empirical evidence of a positive feedback into the climate system, empirical evidence that an entire generation of simple-minded researchers is being trained/indoctrinated whom grossly misunderstand how the carbon cycle works.

  10. Methane contributes only a tiny amount of the total GHG effect (about 1-2 percent of the total). Water vapor, CO2 and Ozone each contribute far more to the total. CH4 only has one narrow line in the relevant spectrum and even if this was completely saturated it would make little if any difference. Worrying about methane is just a distraction meant to further promote fear, much like ocean ‘acidification’, rising sea levels, melting ice and other claims of doom and gloom that are used as a hedge against the broken science condemning CO2.

  11. Thanks for the info. I thought that methane levels had stopped increasing but I have been focused on nuclear power since 2006.

    Decaying organic matter is a major sources of pollution if you understand the carbon and nitrogen cycle. Methane and nitrious oxide are ghg produced, but hydrogen sulfide is more of a concern. It smells bad and is toxic.

    Carbon can be recovered for energy and nitrogen for fertilizer.

    Engineering is well established for treating human waste. Unfortunately the stigma associated with human is a barrier to widespread implementation. This like the stigma associated with nuclear power.

    Name the environmental issue and there are good engineering solutions. All of which are rejected by liberals.

    • “but hydrogen sulfide is more of a concern. It smells bad and is toxic.” Low concentrations of H2S in air smell bad (like rotten eggs), but lethal concentrations are odorless to humans.

  12. Just an immediate sequence of thought that entered my mind about this. Firstly, as mentioned by others above, is the site work correct in identifying only methane (I also use gas detection and FID’s, for example), and also this is a compilation of others ‘measurements’. Secondly, methane production say from lake beds is dependent on many variables, such as: sedimentary/depositional rate (including any varying organic content), water ph, depth, inflow rates, outflow rates, currents, temperature, BOD, fauna, algal blooms, etc, etc. A simple change in the depositional environment, (natural or human induced) can therefore significantly alter what one might call the general methane production ‘flux’ from a given lake or river bed. A steady increase would obviously suggest something is changing, but like tree rings (but worse), the variables cannot probably be isolated in order to define a cause and effect. Moreover, and this is the usual kicker with these studies, unless longer term data is available (along with other datasets) further comparison with the other possible variables/causes is not possible. Also, for what its worth, there will be a timelag, say, on the actual production of methane depending on the mechanisms involved. If we had a slow anaerobic methane production, this would depend (over some years?) on the amount/supply of organic detritus initially AND the (variable?) rate of decay of said detritus due to the other factors. In other words, where is the signal in the ‘noise’? An alleged short term change in trend has very little meaning when considering the possible parameters involved.

  13. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere are around 2 ppm (i.e., 2,000 ppb). To visualize this 2ppm concentration, get a 1 metre (1,000mm) length of metric graph paper measuring 1metre (1,000mm) in width. This sheet has 1 million squares, each measuring 1mm x 1mm. Now black out two of those squares: can such a concentration of 2 ppm be so diabolically important in the grand scheme of things?

  14. Methane is an extremely “strong” greenhouse that very likely suffers the same saturation fate as CO2 in the atmosphere. When a greenhouse gas is so “good” that it lets no radiation escape at pre industrial levels in significant parts of its spectrum, adding more gas is beating a dead horse in the saturated bands. Only the “wings” matter, and growth in the wings is matched by growth in the zero transmission saturated bands.

  15. Perhaps analysis of wtha happens to the recent natural gas leak in SoCal will reveal that it dissipated into CO2 quickly or didn’t have much effect on temperature will calm worries on this front.

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