Lakes all over the world generate large amounts of methane as organic material decays in their sediments. In the arctic, much of the organic material is trapped in frozen sediments. Over time these frozen sediments have built up into huge natural stores as permafrost that underlays the terrain of most northern biomes. These long term frozen sediments underlay many of the ponds and lakes in the arctic. As the arctic warms with climate change, this frozen organic material is melting and methane production has increased. There are now studies to assess how this increase in methane release will affect climate change, but no one really knows at this time.
While this increase in methane release is bad for the climate, it can be fascinating to observe. In the summer bubbles of methane simply float to the surface and dissipate into the atmosphere, but in winter they become trapped under ice. Last winter I discovered large methane bubbles trapped in the snow under the ice of several local lakes and ponds. I attempted to photograph them, but with little success as the surface of the ice was rough and the covering snow made it difficult to find interesting formations.
This past fall as the ponds and lakes of interior Alaska froze and before the snow fell and covered over their surface I searched out and found methane being trapped in the clear newly formed ice. As the ice thickened, the formations deepened, and the continued release of methane became trapped in successive layers of ice creating three dimensional formations. Capturing these formations as photographs was challenging, but the diversity and unique nature of every formation was always fascinating. Even after the snow fell and covered the icy surface, I continued to photograph bubble formations I’d discovered and located earlier in the season, watching them subtly shift and change with light and erosion. Ice is often thought of as permanent, but changes do occur with sublimation and melting hat even during our cold winters does occur slowly, changing the form and shape of the bubble formations.
This is the second gallery of bubbles I’ve posted in the last several months. The earlier one showed early bubble formations in the thin clear ice in the fall. In this album the first images pick up where that gallery ended, but further down in the gallery are bubbles I found later in the fall and winter as the ice thickened, the snow provided cover, and the erosion and sublimation began to take effect. The first images in this album were taken on October 24th and the last image in this gallery on December 26th 2019.