Pictures reveal beauty in the bleakest parts of the world
Pictures capture highly-flammable methane trapped just inches below surface of frozen lake
Despite their beautiful appearance, these strange white bubbles trapped just inches under the surface of this frozen ice are in fact highly-flammable pockets of toxic gas methane with potentially deadly effects.
The bubbles are formed when plants on the lake bed release methane gas, which freezes as it nears the cold surface of the lake, with further bubbles stacking up below.
These stunning photographs of the phenomenon were captured on the frozen ice over Lake Abraham, located in Alberta, Canada, among the foothills of the Rocky mountains.
Phenomenon: Despite their beautiful appearance, these strange white bubbles trapped just inches under the surface of this frozen ice are in fact highly-flammable pockets of toxic gas methane
Ice work: Canadian photographer, Darwin Wiggett, 52, risks his life on the potentially unstable frozen lakes in order to capture the perfect picture
The artificial lake was created in 1972, with the construction of the Bighorn Dam, and named after Silas Abraham, an inhabitant of the Saskatchewan River valley in the nineteenth century.
Canadian photographer, Darwin Wiggett, 52, risks his life carefully navigating the potentially unstable frozen lakes in order to capture the perfect picture.
He said: 'Keeping your fingers working, staying warm, making sure you or your equipment does not blow away and being safe on the ice is the hardest part.
'It's very dangerous because the lake is a man-made reservoir and the water levels change over the winter season cause sheets of ice to collapse and seams of the ice to weaken where the lake water and shoreline meet.
'You need to be able to read ice conditions well to know if you are safe. Crampons, cold weather clothing gear and experience in high winds are necessary for those wanting to venture on the ice.'
Methane is a deadly greenhouse gas and 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide, unless you burn it first.
Some lakes, have 'hot spots' where the methane bubbling is so strong that ice never forms, leaving open holes big enough to spot from an aeroplane.
With over 20 years of experience, Darwin can spend days out on the ice waiting for the right conditions.
Darwin added: 'I have been shooting on Abraham Lake for 10 years and leading workshops and tours with my partner Samantha Chrysanthou and our company oopoomoo.
'Not counting the years of perfecting the art and craft of photography, a good shot can be almost immediate, if conditions are good, and can take days if conditions are not favorable.
'My friends and family love my photos but they don't get why we choose to go out in the cold to do photography.'
Frozen solid: The bubbles form when methane gas is released by plants on the lake bed. The gas rises and as it reaches the colder surface of the lake freezes, forming these spectacular formations, with more bubbles stacking up below
Four new mysterious giant craters have appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia, sparking fears that global warming may be causing gas to erupt from underground.
Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year.
The craters are thought to be caused by eruptions of methane gas from the permafrost as rising rising temperatures causes the frozen soil to melt.
Scroll down for video
Unexplained: The first of the new craters discovered, named B1 (pictured above), shows signs of an huge eruption of gas
It has sparked fears that the craters could become more common as climate change continues to warm and led to warnings that the area is facing a looming natural disaster.
One of the more popular theories is that the giant hole was caused by a phenomenon known as a pingo.
This is a subsurface accumulation of ice that has been covered by land.
When the ice melts it can leave behind a gaping hole that it once filled.
The other favoured theory is that the hole was caused by an explosion of methane underground.
TheYamal Peninsula is rich in natural gas, and a mixture of water, salt and gas could result in an explosion.
However in an article for Drilling and Oil magazine, Professor Bogoyavlensky there were no traces of the gas found in the soil nor were there any charred rock.
Instead he suggests it could also have been caused by an eruption of gas from the underground reservoir, possibly as pressure has increased as temperatures have risen.
The other theory is that it was caused by a meteorite, but most experts have ruled this possibility out as the phenomenon does not resemble normal impact craters.
One of new craters, surrounded by at least 20 smaller holes, is just six miles from a major gas production plant.
Experts have predicted there could be up to 30 more are waiting to be discovered.
Scientsts, however, are still largely baffled by the exact processes causing the craters.
Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has called for 'urgent' investigation of the new phenomenon amid safety fears.
Until now, the existence of only three Siberian craters had been established when great caverns in the frozen landscape were spotted by passing helicopter pilots.
'We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,' Professor Bogoyavlensky told The Siberian Times.
'Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula.
'We have exact locations for only four of them.
'The other three were spotted by reindeer herders.
'But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms.
'When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.'
Two of the newly-discovered large craters - also known as funnels to scientists - have turned into lakes, revealed Professor Bogoyavlensky.
'It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem.
'We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters.
We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.'
Explosion? This crater (named B3) was spotted near to Antipayuta in the Yamal Peninsula after locals saw a flash of light nearby
This map shows the location of the new craters (labelled B1-4) along with the previously discovered holes marked with black dots
The top satellite image shows an accumulation of ice beneath the surface, known as a pingo, while a more recent image shows a lake has formed in a crater scientists have called B2, surrounded by smaller holes
Professor Bogoyavlensky said that the parapet of the craters suggested an eruption of gas from a shallow underground reservoir.
The first hole was spotted in 2013 by helicopter pilots 20 miles from a gas extraction plant at Bovanenkovo, on the Yamal Peninsula.
An examination of the area using satellite images, comparing landscapes in the past with the present day, has alerted Russian experts to the prospect that the phenomenon is more widespread than first thought.
Abyss: This crater, called B1, was first spotted 18 miles (30 km) from the Bovanenkovo by passing helicopter pilots
Simmering: Methane gas can be seen bubbling up out of this lake in the Yamal region and is thought to be an old crater
Experts are particularly interested in a crater they have named B2, which just six miles to the south of the Gazprom gas field at Bovanenkovo.
Old satellite imagery shows no sign of craters at the site but more recent images show there is now a lake there measuring about 5,000 square metres.
The lake is thought to have formed in a hole that is 100 metres by 50 metres in diametre and is surrounded by 20 smaller holes filled with water that are around one to two metres wide.
Residents living near to another of the craters, close to Antipayuta on the Yamal Peninsula, reported seeing a flash of light.
This has led some to conclude that it was the result of gas trapped in the permafrost exploding.
Professor Bogoyavlensky said: 'We need to answer now the basic questions: what areas, and under what conditions, are the most dangerous?
Last year scientists took a closer look at one of the older craters by climbing 54 feet down its frozen sides
When this crater was discovered in 2014, theories ranged from a man-made hoax, to aliens or a meteorite
'These questions are important for the safe operation of the northern cities and infrastructure of oil and gas complexes.'
There is already scientific concern that Lake Baikal, the largest and oldest freshwater lake in the world, but well outside the Arctic Circle, could be at risk of similar gas explosions.
Scientists have previously said there is growing evidence that rising temperatures in the region could be the main catalyst triggering the blasts.
It is thought permafrost at the sites could have one million times more methane hydrates locked inside than ordinary gas.
One expert estimated that the total explosive power of the craters has been the equivalent of about 11 tonnes of TNT.
Scientists are attempting to visit all of the craters, like above, to better understand how they were formed
In the winter the sides of the craters freeze, like above, making it easier for scientists to take samples
There are also two tectonic fault lines across the Yamal Peninsula, with another possibility being that the blow-outs are caused by a deadly combination of heat leaving these rifts, a higher than normal air temperature, and the 'fire ice' melting.
Professor Bogoyavlensky revealed one picture of a Yamal lake showing signs of what he calls 'degassing'.
'This haze that you see on the surface shows gas seeps from the bottom of the lake to the surface,' he said. 'We call this process 'degassing'.'
He is not sure if this lake, too, was previously a crater 'or if the lake formed from another process.
'More important is that the gases from within are actively seeping through this lake.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2965385/Are-Siberia-s-mysterious-craters-caused-climate-change-Scientists-four-new-enormous-holes-northern-Russia.html#ixzz3dde1xRqy
They give a beautiful but bleak view of the world around us – revealing in unflinching detail the impact that we are having on the environment.
The images have been selected from more than 10,000 submissions to the Environmental Photographer of the Year competition to be shown in a new exhibition.
They reveal how climate change, population growth, poverty and natural disasters are all impacting the world around us.
This picture of Mount Kenya, taken in 2014, shows the extent of melting of the Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya. the line of fire shows the tip of the glacier in 1987 and since then it has receeded 120 metres. Photographer Simon Norfolk used petrol to create the fire as a way of illustrating how the burning of fossil fuels is behind much of man's impact on climate change that is causing glaciers worldwide to melt
But they also show how innovation, sustainable development and biodiversity can help to improve our world.
One bleak image shows the receding glaciers on Mount Kenya, while another reveals toxic sulphur fumes coming from a gold mine in Indonesia.
They range from a simple but striking photograph showing a plastic bag snagged on a tree, to the scene inside an abandoned supermarket in Namie City, which lies inside the Fukushima no-go zone following the nuclear power plant disaster and tsunami in 2011.
Launched in 2007 by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), the competition aims to demonstrate the link between the environment and social issues.
Nigel Hendley, interim chief executive at the CIWEM said: 'The Environmental Photographer of the Year competition provides a platform to raise awareness of environmental issues fundamental to our organisation - climate change, environmental pollution, water resource management, wastewater and flood risk management.
Titled 'The Devil’s gold', this picture from the Ijen Kawah volcano, in Eastern Java, Indonesia, shows how miners brave the toxic fumes to venture to search for sulphur, known as Devil's gold. lpan, 27, a sulfur miner for ten years, is seen emerging from the fumes with sulphur
A former resident Namie City is shown standing in an abandoned supermarket in the Fukushima no-go zone. Fresh produce, now several years out of date, still sits on the shelves just as it was left when the city was evacuated after the nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011
'Entries for the 2015 award were of the highest standard ever. They engage with thought-provoking topics and challenge us to question the impact we are having on the planet, both as individuals and human society.'
The exhibition is to go on show at the Royal Geographical Society in London from 22 June before beginning a tour of forest venues around Britain.
Although strangely simple, this plastic bag snagged on a tree in the Bolivian Altiplano delivers a powerful message about the accumulation of plastic bags in the environment. The world consumes over one million plastic bags every minute
This dramatic image shows what remains of the abandoned village of Geamana in the Apuseni Mountains of Romania. The village was deliberately flooded to form a tailings pond for a vast copper mine and 400 families were evacuated to give the toxic waste somewhere to go. The top of a church tower and a few isolated houses are all that remain sticking out of the contaminated sludge
In a swirling mass of orange, a sandstorm suddenly enveloped parts of Kuwait in the image above. The storm in 2011 shut down Kuwait's International Airport and the dust reduced visibility to less than 500 metres while in some areas, there was reportedly no visibility at all
Hayley Skipper, curator of arts development for Forestry Commission England and a member of the selection panel, said: 'It was an extraordinary experience to look at the ten thousand images.
'An intense focus is required to absorb the quantity, and quality, of the imagery and the context of each photograph.
'There is an extraordinary sense of resilience in many of the images selected this year, as we all adapt to the challenges and conditions of our environment across the globe.'
Two women, dressed in purple and holding hair weaves, stand in the doorway of a waterside hair and beauty salon in Makoko, Nigeria
A fisherman checks his nets in Vietnam, where fishing is one of the major economic sectors. The marine economy is expected to account for 53 to 55 percent of GDP by 2020 and to comprise more than 60 percent of the country’s export turnover
A lone barber shop stands in Konya, Turkey, with its electricity supply still working while all around it is crumbling and dark. Konya is best known as a busy university city and an economic boom town but this photograph tells a somewhat different story
A family watching television waits for flood water to recede in Chittagong, Bangladesh. In the past few years, rising sea levels have become an increasing problem in the city, resulting in frequent flooding of residential and business areas
Writer David Auerbach has highlighted the danger of global warming. In 2010 a prominent scientist said humanity would be gone by 2100. The recent G7 summit in Germany (pictured) sought to address climate change. But scientists have criticised the lack of meaningful action
‘Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years,’ Dr Fenner told The Australian in 2010. He later passed away in November 2010 at the age of 95.
2015 TO BE THE HOTTEST YEAR
The world is on course to have its hottest year on record, according to climate change experts, who fear global warming is set to send temperatures soaring.
There have already been a number of temperatures records set in 2015 with Antarctica experiencing its two warmest days ever recorded in March this year.
Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Venezuela and Laos have all set national temperature records in the past five months, while globally January to April this year has been the warmest on record at 0.68°C above average.
The past 12 months have already been the warmest on record.
According to The Times, Professor Adam Scaife, who leads the monthly to decadal climate prediction research at the Met Office, said: 'There's a pretty good chance of the global record being broken this year.'
Earlier this year, it was revealed that 2014 was the hottest on record - but now 2015 looks set to surpass that.
‘A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation.
'I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.’
At the G7 talks in Bonn in Germany earlier this month, governments failed to come up with a clear plan to cut emissions in the coming years.
It emerged that countries' current pledges for greenhouse gas cuts will fail to achieve a peak in energy-related emissions by 2030.
This will likely result in a temperature rise of 2.6°C by the end of the century, the International Energy Agency said.
‘When the G7 called on Monday for all countries to reduce carbon emissions to zero in the next 85 years, the scientific reaction was unanimous: That’s far too late,’ Mr Auerbach wrote.
‘At this point, lowering emissions is just half the story - the easy half. The harder half will be an aggressive effort to find the technologies needed to reverse the climate apocalypse that has already begun.’
He noted that ‘dangerous’ climate change was already here, but the question now was whether ‘catastrophic’ climate change could be avoided.
Scientists have warned that Earth is warming to unreasonable levels and could be uninhabitable to humans in the next 100 years (artist's illustration left). The widely agreed goal is that global temperatures must be kept below a rise of 2°C by the end of the century by limiting emissions (stock image right)
Earlier this week, Nasa released new data that showed how temperature and rainfall patterns will change around the world by 2100. This map, produced using the data, shows the maximum daily temperatures in July under scenarios that predict carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will reach 935 parts per million
The widely agreed goal is that global temperatures must be kept below a rice of 2°C by the end of the century.
A 5°C increase, as predicted to occur by 2100 at the moment, would cause widespread flooding, famine, drought and mass extinction.
‘Even the 2°C figure predicts more than a metre’s rise in sea levels by 2100, enough to displace millions,’ Mr Auerbach noted in his Reuters article.
But he said that current targets are simply not enough to keep under this 2°C target.
The US has suggested cutting emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2025 from 2005 levels, the EU 40 per cent from 1990 to 2030, and China an unspecified amount.
‘Ultimately, we need a Cold War-level of investment in research into new technologies to mitigate the coming effects of global warming,’ he concluded.
‘Without it, the UN’s work is a nice gesture, but hardly a meaningful one.’
Climate change is causing the planet to behave in mysterious ways, scientists claim
Scientists were baffled by the mysterious craters that appeared in northern Russia earlier this month.
Researchers now believe these craters may have been created by a build-up of methane over centuries that then erupting out of the thawing ground.
But strange, unexplained holes are just the beginning of what could be a series of mysterious happenings on the planet – all caused by melting Arctic ice, scientists believe.
Scroll down for video
Pictured are 'drunken forests' in Fairbanks, Alaska. This phenomenon is caused by the permafrost melting beneath the trees causing solid soil to turn to mud; the result is that they lean to one side
WHAT ARE DRUNKEN TREES?
Permafrost is leading to ‘drunken trees’ as the firm soil slowly transforms into mud causing the plants that grow in them to lean to one side.
Some trees survive their soil eroding and continue to grow. Others collapse or drown as the subterranean ice melts. As they are staggered across the landscape, people often refer to them as 'drunken trees.'
According to a report by David Biello in Scientific American, temperatures across the Arctic are warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the globe.
‘At some point, we might get into a state of permafrost that is not comparable to what we know for 100 years or so, some new processes that never happened before,’ geologist Guido Grosse of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research told Mr Biello.
A similar process is taking place in the melting regions of the Arctic where lakes, known as thermokarsts, which are lakes that break down plant material into methane.
This methane can then escape out of the lake or the ground, and once lit, could set ice on fire.
Permafrost is also leading to ‘drunken trees’ as the firm soil slowly transforms into mud causing the plants that grow in them to lean to one side.
An ecologist ignites a large methane bubble that was trapped by the autumn freeze. One of the largest concerns about thawing permafrost is the sudden release of methane from the Arctic
Scientists were baffled by the mysterious craters that appeared in northern Russia earlier this month. Researchers now believe they were created by a build-up of methane over centuries
Some trees survive their soil eroding and continue to grow. Others collapse or drown as the subterranean ice melts.
Nasa claims that arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon - an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 billion tonnes of it.
That's about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth's soils. In comparison, about 350 billion tonnes of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities.
Most of the Arctic’s sequestered carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 3 meters of the surface.
'Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures - as much as 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius in just the past 30 years,' said Nasa's Charles Miller.
'As heat from Earth's surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilise these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic's carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.'
But separate research earlier this week suggested that some Arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they emit into the atmosphere.
This counters a widely-held scientific view that thawing permafrost accelerates atmospheric warming.
The study shows that permafrost rich in organic material will see the growth of mosses and other plants flourish, leading to greater amounts of carbon absorption.
Supported by the National Science Foundation, the study was published this week in the journal Nature and focused on thermokarst lakes.
A study says ice-rich lakes in Alaska and Siberia are cooling the atmosphere. The research challenges the widely-held view that thawing lakes cause warming. Found in the Arctic and cold mountain regions, thermokarst lakes (shown) occur when permafrost thaws and creates surface depressions that fill with water
Will methane in the Arctic speed up global warming? New source of gas found in North Pole - and there may be more of it than first thought
Methane, the principle component in natural gas, is usually produced by organic material decomposing.
But there is another form of the deadly gas, dubbed abiotic methane, that is created by chemical reactions in the crust beneath the seafloor.
Now scientists have found vast deep water gas hydrates in the Arctic that are reservoirs for abiotic methane – a gas which is 20 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
The gas forms through a process called serpentinisation. Serpentinisation occurs when seawater reacts with hot mantle rocks exhumed along large faults within the seafloor
The reservoirs are secure, and scientists don't believe they will impact climate change. Instead, they say similar formations could someday be used to store methane, that can later be used as fuel.
One reservoir was recently discovered on the ultraslow spreading Knipovich ridge, in the deep Fram Strait of the Arctic Ocean.
'This ultraslow spreading ridge shows that the Arctic environment is ideal for this type of methane production,' said Joel Johnson associate professor at the University of New Hampshire.
The Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (Cage) estimates that up to 15,000 gigatonnes of carbon may be stored in the form of hydrates in the ocean floor.
Scientists have found vast deep water gas hydrates in the Arctic that are reservoirs for abiotic methane – a gas which is 20 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. One such reservoir was recently discovered on the ultraslow spreading Knipovich ridge (pictured), in the deep Fram Strait of the Arctic Ocean.
'But this estimate is not accounting for abiotic methane. So there is probably much more,' said Cage director Jürgen Mienert.
METHANE AND GLOBAL WARMING
Methane is the second-largest greenhouse gas contributor to climate change.
The gas is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat and is currently being targeted by government in an attempt to mitigate global warming.
Methane pollution has declined by 11 per cent since 1990 even as the governments has pushed for greater use of natural gas.
But the longer view on methane pollution show that it will rise.
The Obama administration points to studies that show that methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030, if no action is taken.
However, methane is also the principle component in natural gas. It is a lucrative fuel source, which could contain more energy than all the world's oil, coal and gas put together.
They believe the gas forms through a process called serpentinisation.
'Serpentinisation occurs when seawater reacts with hot mantle rocks exhumed along large faults within the seafloor,' said Johnson.
'These only form in slow to ultraslow spreading seafloor crust. The optimal temperature range for serpentinisation of ocean crust is 200 – 350 degrees Celsius.'
Methane produced by serpentinisation can escape through cracks and faults, and end up at the ocean floor, causing a concern for future global warming.
But in the Knipovich Ridge it is trapped as gas hydrate in the sediments.
'In other known settings the abiotic methane escapes into the ocean, where it potentially influences ocean chemistry,' says Johnson.
'But if the pressure is high enough, and the subsea floor temperature is cold enough, the gas gets trapped in a hydrate structure below the sea floor.'
Bünz says that there are many places in the Arctic Ocean with a similar tectonic setting as the Knipovich ridge.
Rather than causing a concern, the study claims that active tectonic environments may serve as a stable area for long-term storage of methane carbon in deep-marine sediments.
But other types of methane in the Arctic are causing a concern for scientists.
Last year Dr Jason Box who claims that methane will be the main driver of climate change if it escapes into the atmosphere.
He tweeted: 'If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd'
The scientist, based at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, tweeted the provocative statement after a Swedish study found methane leaking beneath the Arctic.
Some of this methane – which is over 20 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat - is now making it to the ocean's surface.
Scientists at Stockholm University called the discovery 'somewhat of a surprise,' which, according to Dr Box, is an understatement.
Samples of the gas hydrates will provide more knowledge on abiotic methane. But they need to be drilled, as they are 140 metres under the ocean floor
June 2015 – WATER CRISIS — Drought-stricken California is not the only place draining underground aquifers in the hunt for fresh water. It’s happening across the world, according to two new studies by U.S. researchers released Tuesday. One-third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted says new study. Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water is being removed than replaced from these vital underground reservoirs. Thirteen of 37 aquifers fell at rates that put them into the most troubled category.
“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the studies’ principal investigator. And it’s difficult to see it getting better soon. These groundwater reserves take thousands of years to accumulate and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed. Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use, up from the usual 40 percent.
In another finding from the studies led by the University of California Irvine, scientists say that some of these aquifers may be much smaller than previously thought. Only a few of the aquifers have been mapped in detail and most estimates of aquifer water reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the studies. The new studies used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take unprecedentedly precise measurements of the groundwater reservoirs hidden beneath the ground. The satellites detected subtle changes in the gravitational pull of the earth’s surface. Water is exceptionally heavy and exerts a greater pull on orbiting spacecraft. As the satellites flew overhead, slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013. “The water table is dropping all over the world,” Familglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.” –National Post