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Lovely but deadly - beautiful bubbles in Canadian lake are flammable methane gas

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It may look beautiful, but they definitely have the potential to be destructive. As is they were clouds perched in the sky on a sunny day, the white and billowy bubbles in the frozen blue waters of Alberta, Canada's Abraham Lake are lovely - but these bubbles don't contain air. They're full of highly flammable methane.

LOS ANGEELS, CA (Catholic Online) - These methane bubbles are trapped inside the frigid lake -- until spring comes and the ice starts to thaw. Caused by the decomposition of organic matter-like plants, animals and microbes, methane gas begins to surge up in the warmer months as it floats ever closer to the surface.

The methane stays trapped beneath the last remnants of ice and then the ice cracks and the methane bubbles away into the atmosphere. That's when the trouble begins. Methane, a greenhouse gas, has 20 times the effect on climate change as the more commonly cited culprit carbon dioxide.

There have been many frozen methane lakes like Abraham Lake. Ecologists worry that as the planet warms, more and more methane will be released from them, and they'll increasingly add to the changing climate.

Scientists working with methane-producing lakes in Alaska proved it was the flammable gas and not something less menacing bubbling up by drilling a hole, pouring in some warm water, like a tongue of flame, fire burst from the frozen depths.

But as dangerous as its flammability makes it, methane is also useful and can be used in the service of mankind.

Methane lakes are beginning to be utilized as sources of energy, such as the outfit on Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Developers have begun tapping into extensive gas deposits underneath the lake to be used in the creation of electricity.

Similar techniques are being used to mine something called methane hydrate, which is a frozen and extremely concentrated form of methane, from lake and ocean floors.

Regardless, the methane from the floor of Abraham Lake creates an astonishing visual as the bubbles wind and churn in their slow, eventual struggle to escape the blue lake.

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