page last updated: 29 October 2010

Pan Arctic Lake Ice Methane Monitoring Network (PALIMMN)

During the International Polar Year, Walter Anthony is working with a team of scientists, teachers, and enthusiastic citizens to establish a methane bubbling monitoring program, the Pan-Arctic Lake-Ice Methane Monitoring Network (PALIMMN), with an education and outreach component, Student-PALIMMN.

Methane Gas Seeps: Potential Entergy Source for Rural Alaska Villages

The goal of this project is to evaluate the potential for environmentally responsible development of methane gas from seeps near remote Alaskan villages for local space heating and power generation. Research priorities include identifying and evaluating the quantity, quality, and location of natural seeps, as well as determining potential capture and transport mechanisms necessary for future resource development. This project is supported by an NSF EPSCoR Early Career Fellowship and the Department of Energy.

Thermokarst lake near Cherskii, Russia

Katey Walter Anthony

Thermokarst lake near Cherskii, Russia

Modeling Impacts of Icy Permafrost Degradation on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Carbon Cycling in Thermokarst Lakes

This NSF IPY #0732735 research project integrates field studies in a range of disciplines (geomorphology, geophysics, paleoecology, hydrology, limnology) with process modeling of permafrost thaw, lake formation, carbon cycling, and greenhouse gas emissions to understand how permafrost degradation in the Arctic, particularly thermokarst-lake evolution, affects long-term atmospheric trace gas dynamics by releasing ancient carbon stored in permafrost as carbon dioxide and methane. Intensive study regions are areas of the Yedoma Ice Complex in the Kolyma River Lowlands of Russia and the Seward Peninsula, Alaska.

Lake Methane Ebullution

The goal of this project is to estimate methane emissions from a variety of lake types in Alaska and Russia, with particular attention to the importance of thawing permafrost as a fuel for methane production. We map methane bubbling "hotspots" that come from various sources, not just thawing permafrost, including also decay of modern plants and seepage from geological reservoirs of methane. To date we have mapped over 50 lakes in Alaska and Russia. Using automated bubble traps, we monitor rates of methane bubbling from point sources and hotspots in lakes. Our goal is to understand the origins, magnitude and vulnerability for change of methane emissions from lakes.

Remote Sensing Methane Ebullition

Our goal is to develop a technique to quantify methane bubbling from lakes by linking remote sensing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to ground surveys of methane bubbles trapped in lake ice for large-scale sampling within images to upscale quantification of regional and pan-arctic lake emissions. This work addresses the NASA Earth Science Enterprise Strategy's objectives of determining how global (aquatic) ecosystems are changing as permafrost warms and thaws enhancing methane emissions from expanding lands and how ecosystems respond to and affect global environmental change and the carbon cycle.

NASA Assessing the Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Thermokarst, Methane Emissions, and Related Carbon Cycling in Siberia and Alaska

Thermokarst depressions and thermokarst lakes (TKLs) dominate large areas of the arctic land surface and may expand as permafrost continues to warm and thaw, releasing large quantities of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. We propose to define the relationship of TKLs to global climate change by developing remote sensing methods to quantify thermokarst and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from TKLs in regions (>1 million km2) of organic-rich, icy permafrost and ice-poor permafrost in Siberia and Alaska. We will use fine and broad scale remote sensing and field validation to determine the role of thermokarst as both a source (GHG release) and sink (peat accumulation) for carbon (C), thereby improving understanding of the behavior of a major C pool (icy permafrost) previously poorly considered in global C cycle sciences. Specifically, we will use remote-sensing based land cover classification and change detection to derive information about thermokarst distribution, initiation, and related changes in land surface properties to improve C-cycle and ecosystem models for Northern Hemisphere permafrost regions. We will test new satellite-based techniques: SAR data will be evaluated for upscaling field-measurements of CH4 bubbling from lakes to regional estimates of lake CH4 emissions through the establishment of a Pan-Arctic Lake-Ice Methane Monitoring Network (PALIMMN). By integration of our remotely sensed spatial data, information derived from multi-temporal satellite data (50 years), radiocarbon dated TKL sediment records (up to ~15,000 years old), and available and predicted climatic data, we will inform the sophisticated 2-D and 3-D numerical permafrost models of our collaborators for prediction of spatial and temporal thermokarst dynamics and related GHG emissions in scenarios for up to 200 years into the future as permafrost warms and thaws under global warming.


Fluxes of carbon, water and energy are major regulatory drivers of the Arctic system, and form key linkages and feedbacks between land, ocean, and atmosphere. They are expected to change rapidly as climate warms. The goal of this IPY NSF project is to establish two long-term observatories at Toolik Lake Field Station in Alaska and the Northeast Science Station in Cherskii, Russia for year-round measurements of landscape-level carbon, water, and energy balance and to contribute to a pan-arctic network where coordinated measurements are made available in a unified database.

In partnership with NOAA, we will measure CH4 concentrations on a 50-meter tall tower in Siberia and use a gradient technique to calculate CH4 flux. Data generated on the tower will contribute to the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory as part of a global greenhouse monitoring network that provides the long-term atmospheric observational basis for improving understanding of the global and North American carbon cycle. This work aims to reduce uncertainties on and improve estimates of CH4 emissions from northern high-latitude ecosystems, and to ensure our ability to detect increases in CH4 emissions resulting from climate change.

The Polaris Project

The Arctic is central to the global climate change issue, and Russia has by far the largest share of the Arctic. Yet few western scientists, much less students, ever get the chance to work in the Russian Arctic. The NSF POLARIS Project, a joint initiative between the Woods Hole Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Northeast Science Station in the Sakha Republic of Russia, will train future leaders in arctic research and education, and inform the public; both tasks are essential given the rapid and profound changes underway in the Arctic in response to global warming.

Improving Cold Region Biogas Digester Efficiency

The goals of our two-phase project are to test and implement cold-adapted biogas digester technology in Cordova, a rural Alaskan community. Successful biogas technology would provide Alaskans with alternative cooking and heating fuel, offsetting fossil-fuel costs, reducing greenhouse gas emission, and minimizing organic waste in dumps. Currently in our first phase, we are experimenting with the relative efficiencies of mesophiles (conventional warm-loving digester microbes from manure) and psychrophiles (cold-loving microbes from thermokarst lake sediments) on common Alaskan household feedstock at various temperatures. The second phase will deploy digesters in practical household scale projects, operating appliances to evaluate feasibility and sustainability for widespread use in Alaska. The project is funded by a Denali Commission Emerging Energy Technology Grant, and is managed in partnership with the Cordova Electric Cooperative and the Cordova High School.

We are also working with a separate grant from National Geographic Society and the Blackstone Ranch in association with engineer T.H. Culhane of the NGO Solar CITIES) to introduce the cold-adapted technology in the high altitudes and latitudes in Africa, Europe, and Asia. This grant includes community education and media coverage to broaden the social appeal of the digester technology.