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Katey Walter and the 'Methane Time Bomb'

February 20, 2009 |  4:42 pm

Is global warming an abstract threat?

To be sure, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth's atmosphere, but they remain invisible to the human eye, unlike smog, diesel soot and other air pollutants.

Scientists still struggle to get the public to pay attention, despite an avalanche of peer-reviewed studies showing that climate change is already happening and is likely to accelerate to dangerous levels.

If anyone can talk back to global warming "deniers," it is Katey Walter, a 32-year-old aquatic biologist. She is the rare climate scientist who can make her findings visually -- and literally -- explosive. Walter is studying methane seeps from lakes in Alaska and Siberia (and has to be wary of wandering bears while she's doing it). Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

When Walter sets a match to a seep, it explodes in flame. Read about her field trip on Alaska's Seward Peninsula, just below the Arctic Circle, learn about methane's new threat, and watch the seeps light up in an LA Times report with video and a flash graphic.

-- Margot Roosevelt

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