Frozen methane bubbles create artistic images

Methane bubbles
Methane bubbles become frozen in beautiful phenomenon at Lake Minnewanka. Photo by Paul Zizka/Caters News

A bizarre yet beautiful phenomenon occurs each winter in many Canadian lakes when dangerous methane gas bubbles create an artistic design in the frozen ice.

Paul Zizka, 35, a photographer based in Banff, Alberta, Canada, visited Lake Minnewanka and Vermillion Lake in Banff National Park and snapped several mesmerizing images of the frozen bubbles.

"The methane bubbles depicted in the photographs have generated a lot of buzz, primarily on social media," Zizka told Caters News Agency. "Many people have never seen the phenomenon before. People marveled at the beauty of them and wondered what they really were."

methane bubbles
Methane bubbles frozen in the lake with a starry sky over the mountains of Vermillion Lake in Banff. Photo by Paul Zizka/Caters News

What happens is that dead organic matter (tree leaves or animals, for instance) falls into the water and sinks to the bottom where bacteria consumes it and emits methane gas bubbles that rise to the surface. When lakes are free of ice, the bubbles merely pop at the surface and the gas dissolves into the atmosphere.

But when the lakes are freezing cold, the bubbles become frozen and trapped under the surface.

"The bubbles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some appear to be trapped in dozens of different layers of ice as they migrate upward," Zizka wrote in a Facebook post about the photo at the top. "Amazing sight."

The bubbles can be dangerous if they are popped and ignited with a source of fire but are otherwise generally safe.

In one Facebook post, Zizka referred to the frozen methane bubbles as a lava lamp. More of his photos are below:

Methane bubbles
Photo by Paul Zizka/Caters News
methane bubbles
This one looks like a giant methane plume. Photo by Paul Zizka/Caters News
frozen lake
A lady ice skates over frozen methane bubbles in Lake Minnewanka. Photo by Paul Zizka/Cater News
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A collage of frozen bubbles. Photo by Paul Zizka/Caters News

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