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Scientific Reports


Methane ( CH4) is emitted from lakes by several processes: bubbles released from bottom sediments that reach the atmosphere (ebullition); spring release of CH4 trapped in bubbles in and under the ice during fall freeze (bubble release), and diffusion of CH4 from sediments to the surface. Each of these emission routes is highly variable over space and time, and episodic in the extreme, making reliable measurements difficult to carry out. However, lakes are receiving increasing interest for their important contribution to global CH4 emissions. Their area, distribution and emissions respond to interannual and longer-term climate fluctuations and close to half the world’s lake area is in high northern latitudes that are experiencing rapidly-warming temperatures and lengthening thaw periods. We report on a new spatially-explicit data set of lakes > 50°N, classified with methanerelevant criteria. The seasonality of daily CH4 fluxes is driven with satellite observations of thaw timing and duration. We found that observed thaw seasons are 10–30% shorter than those assumed in previous studies. The area of lakes is 1,095 × 103 km2 and total CH4 emission is 13.8–17.7 Tg CH4 year− 1: 11.2–14.4 Tg via diffusion and ebullition and 2.6–3.3 Tg from spring release of CH4 stored in bubbles in winter lake ice. This novel suite of data and methodologies provides a unique framework to model CH4 emission from lakes under current, past and future climates.


Published in Scientific Reports by Nature Research. Available via doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-68246-1.

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