Questions for ‘A strange lake belches flammable gas in the high Arctic’

Methane, a highly flammable gas, gets trapped under the ice of some Arctic lakes in winter. If a hole is punched through the ice, the escaping gas can be lit into a fireball.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

To accompany feature “A strange lake belches flammable gas in the high Arctic


Before Reading

1. Not all of the greenhouse gases entering the air come from human activities. What are some all-natural sources?

2. How is climate change affecting the frozen soil, or permafrost, that covers much of the Arctic?

During Reading

1.   What strange thing did Katey Walter Anthony first notice about Lake Esieh in Alaska?

2.   Why is methane a concern for climate scientists?

3.   Why do scientists believe the Arctic could become a major source of methane in the next 100 years? 

4.   What is the source of the carbon that later gets released as methane from thawing permafrost?

5.   What are thermokarst lakes? How do they form?

6.   What strategy did Sergey Zimov suggest to find and capture methane from thermokarst lakes?

7.   What surprising thing did Walter Anthony learn from the bubbles she collected?

8.   What does the term “positive feedback” refer to? Why is it important when thinking about thawing permafrost and greenhouse gases?

9.   How did Walter Anthony figure out the age of the source of Lake Esieh’s methane? What big surprise did this suggest about where the methane may be coming from?

10.  How might craters found in the Arctic be related to thawing permafrost?

After Reading

1.   Imagine you are a climate scientist who just learned about Walter Anthony’s discovery at Lake Esieh. What are some next steps you might try in order to figure out how important her finding might be?

2.   The story describes a new possible source of greenhouse gases. How might this affect the urgency in finding ways to reduce or slow the effects of climate change?