Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Take a look at Esieh Lake, the stuff of climate change nightmares

Hello, tipping point.

From the Twitter feed of Chris Mooney
  • Esieh Lake is in a part of Alaska that's in the Arctic Circle.
  • Each day the lake emits methane at a rate equivalent to about 6,000 cows.
  • If more like it are found, it could be an ominous warning of things to come.


Melting permafrost. 

"The lake, about 20 football fields in size, looked as if it was boiling. Its waters hissed, bubbled and popped as a powerful greenhouse gas escaped from the lake bed. Some bubbles grew as big as grapefruits, visibly lifting the water's surface several inches and carrying up bits of mud from below."

That's the terrifying description journalist Chris Mooney gave of Esieh Lake in Alaska. What, exactly, is it describing? Melting permafrost.

As in, ice and frozen soil deep down that has never thawed, hence the term 'perma'.

The concern is this: If Esieh Lake exists, then surely others do, too. And if the permafrost beneath and around other lakes is thawing like it is here, then the resultant carbon dioxide and methane will create what climate scientists refer to as a "feedback loop." That is, the gases emitted as the formerly frozen organic and plant matter are broken down make global warming worse. They dramatically speed up the entire, terrifying process, causing even more permafrost to melt. Rinse, repeat.

There are already a number of "thermokarst" lakes in the Arctic permafrost that are spewing methane, but this one is the biggest yet. Each day it emits methane at a rate equivalent to about 6,000 cows.

The scientist who discovered Esieh Lake, Katey Walter Anthony, has studied 300 lakes that are emitting gasses like this, but the sheer size of Esieh really took her by surprise. In fact, she even thought it might explode.

Losing the permafrost even affects what Native peoples have used for generations as an "Eskimo freezer" — burying fresh meat and other foods under the permafrost to store them and keep them frozen until they're ready to use. Much of those can't be used the same way any more, because they're thawing.

Here's the scientist who discovered Esieh setting fire to methane 10 years ago on a lake she and her team found back then.

Live tomorrow! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Improving Olympic performance with asthma drugs?

A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.

Image source: sumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
  • A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
  • The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.

Keep reading Show less

Weird science shows unseemly way beetles escape after being eaten

Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.

R. attenuata escaping from a black-spotted pond frog.

Surprising Science
  • A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
  • The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
  • Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Why are we fascinated by true crime stories?

Several experts have weighed in on our sometimes morbid curiosity and fascination with true crime.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast