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      Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming

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      Nature
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Large uncertainties in the budget of atmospheric methane, an important greenhouse gas, limit the accuracy of climate change projections. Thaw lakes in North Siberia are known to emit methane, but the magnitude of these emissions remains uncertain because most methane is released through ebullition (bubbling), which is spatially and temporally variable. Here we report a new method of measuring ebullition and use it to quantify methane emissions from two thaw lakes in North Siberia. We show that ebullition accounts for 95 per cent of methane emissions from these lakes, and that methane flux from thaw lakes in our study region may be five times higher than previously estimated. Extrapolation of these fluxes indicates that thaw lakes in North Siberia emit 3.8 teragrams of methane per year, which increases present estimates of methane emissions from northern wetlands (< 6-40 teragrams per year; refs 1, 2, 4-6) by between 10 and 63 per cent. We find that thawing permafrost along lake margins accounts for most of the methane released from the lakes, and estimate that an expansion of thaw lakes between 1974 and 2000, which was concurrent with regional warming, increased methane emissions in our study region by 58 per cent. Furthermore, the Pleistocene age (35,260-42,900 years) of methane emitted from hotspots along thawing lake margins indicates that this positive feedback to climate warming has led to the release of old carbon stocks previously stored in permafrost.

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          Most cited references21

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          Disappearing Arctic lakes.

          Historical archived satellite images were compared with contemporary satellite data to track ongoing changes in more than 10,000 large lakes in rapidly warming Siberia. A widespread decline in lake abundance and area has occurred since 1973, despite slight precipitation increases to the region. The spatial pattern of lake disappearance suggests (i) that thaw and "breaching" of permafrost is driving the observed losses, by enabling rapid lake draining into the subsurface; and (ii) a conceptual model in which high-latitude warming of permafrost triggers an initial but transitory phase of lake and wetland expansion, followed by their widespread disappearance.
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            Three-dimensional model synthesis of the global methane cycle

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              Methane emission from natural wetlands: Global distribution, area, and environmental characteristics of sources

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                September 2006
                September 2006
                : 443
                : 7107
                : 71-75
                Article
                10.1038/nature05040
                16957728
                e418b8ab-664c-47a1-9432-977d5e3c7136
                © 2006

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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