Why Some Frozen Lakes Catch Fire | Summary and Q&A

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December 19, 2020
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Why Some Frozen Lakes Catch Fire

TL;DR

Winter lakes can catch fire due to methanogens, microbes that produce highly-flammable methane gas. As winters become shorter due to climate change, the release of methane into the atmosphere could lead to a positive feedback loop and further warming.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why can some frozen lakes catch fire?

Some frozen lakes can catch fire due to the presence of methanogens, microbes that produce methane gas. Sufficient accumulation of methane can ignite pockets of the lake ice.

Q: How do shorter winters contribute to more methane entering the atmosphere?

Shorter winters allow less time for bacteria to convert methane into a non-gaseous form that remains trapped beneath the ice. This increases the chances of methane escaping into the atmosphere as the ice thaws, contributing to global warming.

Q: Why is the release of methane from frozen lakes a climate change problem?

Methane is a greenhouse gas that has the potential to trap up to 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Increased methane release from frozen lakes can lead to a positive feedback loop, where more ice melts, more methane escapes, and the climate gets warmer.

Q: Why is it important to study frozen lakes and their methane levels?

Understanding frozen lakes and their methane levels is crucial to predicting and mitigating the effects of climate change. It helps in identifying potential positive feedback loops and developing strategies to prevent the release of significant amounts of methane.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Winter lakes contain methanogens, microbes that produce methane gas from carbon dioxide derived from algae breakdown. In some cases, enough methane can accumulate to ignite pockets of the lake ice.

  • Shortening winters due to climate change could lead to more methane entering the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and potentially triggering a positive feedback loop.

  • Understanding the behavior of frozen lakes is crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change and prevent the release of significant amounts of methane.

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