Thawing Permafrost and Its Consequences

Written by: Mansi Samre || Graphics by: Mansi Samre|| SEO : Aarushi Mahajan

Permafrost is used to describe any terrain (from soil to rock formations) that remains frozen for 2 or more consecutive years, on the land or the ocean floor. It can extend up to a few feet or can last up to several miles underneath the surface of the earth. A frozen terrain is not the same as permafrost. If a terrain freezes and thaws every year it is considered seasonally frozen. Permafrost is usually found in areas with a cold climate. Most of the present-day permafrost was formed during the ice age. lets discuss how to stop permafrost melting .

 

Just above the permafrost, is a layer of soil called the active layer, which thaws each summer and refreezes each winter. The thawing and refreezing of the active layer creates interesting patterns on the ground known as ice-wedge polygons. Ice wedge polygons often point towards the presence of permafrost underneath.

Thawing permafrost climate change

how to stop permafrost melting

How does it form?

Permafrost forms when the water trapped between the rocks, soil, and sediment formations freezes and turns into ice when the temperature drops below 0°C (32°F). It does not always exist in one solid mass. Therefore it is divided into two categories called continuous and discontinuous permafrost.

 

Continuous permafrost is a continuous mass of frozen ground under the surface of the earth. It occurs when the temperature in a region remains below freezing temperatures (-5°C or below) all year round. Since the temperatures are not high enough to thaw the permafrost persists. It is stretched out under all surfaces except large water bodies in the area. 

 

Discontinuous permafrost is characterized when the mass of frozen ground is broken up into separate areas. It occurs when the temperature in a region keeps varying from season to season. If the annual temperature of the region is anywhere between 0°C to -5°C, permafrost will only form in the places that are screened like areas with thick vegetation or areas in the shadow of a mountain. 

 

 

Magnitude on earth

Most of the permafrost in the present day is found in the northern hemisphere. About 24 percent of the ground or 19 million square kilometers of the northern hemisphere is covered in permafrost. Most of this belt is in Greenland, Serbia, Alaska, and Northern Canada.

In the southern hemisphere, most of it would lie in the southern ocean if there were land there. It is therefore found in the discontinuous state in the regions such as the South American Andes and New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The continent of Antarctica is covered in glaciers. The terrain under this is largely covered in permafrost.

 

A brief timeline

Throughout the earth’s history, evidence suggests that permafrost has gone through expansion and corrosion. Its existence dates back to 2.6 million years ago. The recently found remains of the wooly mammoth and other Pleistocene animals in Serbia, Alaska, and Canada, provide us with a confirmation. More evidence comes from studying the frozen layers of the earth’s crust. In some regions, the upper layer of permafrost lies below the modern seasonal freezing. The temperature lowers as we get deeper. This indicates the existence of relict cold. Finally, the presence of permafrost on continental shelves underneath Kara and Beaufort seas tell us that it was formed millions of years ago as it could have only been formed when the sea levels were low.

 

 

Thawing and its impacts

By definition, permafrost remains frozen for two or more years. The permafrost on our earth has gone through significant changes over time but human activities have sped up this process. The thawing of permafrost has negative effects on ecosystems, economies, landscapes, and topography.

 

Damage to the environment

Due to the warming temperatures because of global warming, the active layer penetrates deeper into the ground. If the active layer thaws too deep it is difficult for the permafrost to recover each year. Under the surface of the earth, it acts as a binding component, binding soil, rocks, and other loose sediments. Therefore the melting of permafrost makes the ground unstable and increases the chances of erosion and landslides, particularly in coastal areas. New sediment is introduced into the rivers and streams as a result of soil erosion. This can alter the trails of rivers and streams and also damage the quality of water, affecting the quality of water in the area.

Thawing permafrost can lead to water in the ground sinking deeper which makes us more vulnerable to forest fires. Forest fires can cause more thawing of permafrost and the cycle repeats. 

 

Damage to infrastructure

 

In towns and cities built in these regions, infrastructure was laid assuming that the solid foundation of permafrost would not change. Thawing can cause the ground to cave in or crack. This can cause a lot of damage to the infrastructure in these areas and can cost millions in repairs. In high altitude areas, thawing can cause landslides which can be a threat to human life. Thawing will also increase the sea levels and cause flooding in major cities further damaging the infrastructure.

 

One of the most striking examples of permafrost thaw is in Russia called the Batagaika crater. Also known as the gateway to the underworld, it’s over half a mile wide and 300 feet deep and is the largest crater caused by permafrost thaw. As the exposed crater continues to thaw, it expands about 60 feet every year. If this were to happen in any area habituated by humans, it would cause great damage to life and property. Scientists say this is the first of many and should be taken as a warning sign.

 

 

Climate change

 

Due to climate change, the melting of permafrost is gaining pace faster than ever. When plants and animals die they release methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gasses. This organic matter has been preserved in the permafrost for thousands of years now. Due to thawing, this organic matter is now exposed to microorganisms which will start the process of decomposition. This will lead to huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the environment. 

 

There is more carbon locked in the permafrost than humans have released in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial age. There is about 1.8 trillion tons of carbon locked which has already begun to thaw. Once these greenhouse gasses are released into the environment, they are trapped in our environment and increase the temperature of our atmosphere. This in turn results in more rapid thawing of the permafrost. Thus the cycle keeps repeating. This cycle is called the “permafrost feedback carbon cycle”. An increase in the atmospheric temperature will lead to the growth of more trees, which in turn will remove carbon from the atmosphere on a small scale. But it is still not enough to reverse the cycle.

 

 

The reemergence of ancient diseases

 

Along with the various greenhouse gasses, there are also several microbes that have been frozen into the permafrost for thousands of years. As it thaws, along with the gasses, these microbes would also be emitted into the atmosphere. It is believed that some bacteria and viruses can lie dormant for thousands of years. As the temperature gets warm, these bacteria and viruses will become active again, causing an outbreak.

 

In December 2016, a far off secluded community in Siberia experienced a bizarre outbreak of a disease. Russian officials identified the disease as anthrax. There had not been an anthrax outbreak in the area in nearly 70 years. The outbreak started in raindeers and spread to humans. They burned over 2000 reindeer carcasses. The scientists then began looking underground. The scientists believe that the anthrax outbreak was caused by the carcass of a long-dead reindeer that thawed out along with the permafrost. But it’s not just anthrax. Scientists believe that the thawing will bring back the diseases that we thought we had under control like smallpox and Spanish flu.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The history of permafrost suggests that it is decaying now faster than ever as a result of global warming. As it thaws more, the atmospheric temperature starts rising and the cycle continues. The discontinuous permafrost will be the first to disappear followed by the continuous. Scientists have predicted widespread thawing of permafrost by 2100. This will cause catastrophic effects on our environment and the human population. Therefore the issue of climate change should be of utmost priority to us right now or it could cause irreversible damage to our environment. 

 

 

 

 

45 comments

  1. Chad Calvent

    I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome weblog!

  2. Beauty Fashion

    One thing I’d prefer to say is the fact that before buying more laptop memory, look into the machine directly into which it is installed. Should the machine can be running Windows XP, for instance, the actual memory threshold is 3.25GB. Installing above this would basically constitute any waste. Make certain that one’s motherboard can handle the actual upgrade volume, as well. Interesting blog post.

  3. Beauty Fashion

    Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, good site!

  4. Chanda

    Hey I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Aol for something else,
    Regardless I am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a
    fantastic post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I
    don’t have time to browse it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will
    be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the
    awesome jo.

  5. Agustin

    It’s an awesome post in favor of all the web visitors; they will obtain advantage from it I am sure.

    Here is my web page :: Bioneo Farms CBD Reviews (Agustin)

  6. Ultra Quick Keto

    Every weekend i used to pay a visit this website, because
    i wish for enjoyment, since this this web site conations genuinely fastidious funny information too.

    Feel free to surf to my webpage :: Ultra Quick Keto

  7. caffemartierdelray.com

    I truly love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did
    you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create
    my very own blog and would love to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named.

    Kudos!

  8. forum.m2clasic.ro

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m improving myself.
    I definitely liked reading all that is posted on your site.Keep the tips coming.
    I enjoyed it!

    my website – GrownMD CBD Review (forum.m2clasic.ro)

  9. Renew Brite Reviews

    I?m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it
    up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back
    later. Cheers

    Here is my page … Renew Brite Reviews

  10. Erectesto XL Pills

    This is really interesting, You are an overly skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and look ahead to looking
    for extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

    My webpage: Erectesto XL Pills

  11. Tundra Breeze Portable AC Reviews

    Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a difficult time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

    Feel free to visit my webpage: Tundra Breeze Portable AC Reviews

  12. Quick Keto Trim Review

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. There’s no
    doubt that that you ought to write more about this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t
    speak about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

    My website Quick Keto Trim Review

  13. Carmine

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

    Short but very accurate information? Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

    Look into my website Erectesto XL Reviews (Carmine)

  14. Max Melt Keto

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled
    blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking
    more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

    Also visit my homepage – Max Melt Keto

  15. Reed

    Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog article
    or vice-versa? My website addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I
    feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email.

    I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!

  16. GrownMD CBD Review

    Currently it appears like Movable Type is the top blogging platform out there right now.

    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

    my blog post: GrownMD CBD Review

  17. http://www.fles.hlc.edu.tw

    Hello, Neat post. There is an issue along with your web site in internet explorer, could test
    this? IE still is the market chief and a big component to people
    will pass over your fantastic writing due to this problem.

    Stop by my web page :: Keto X3 (http://www.fles.hlc.edu.tw)

  18. Sidney

    It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the long run and it’s time to be
    happy. I have learn this publish and if I could I wish
    to counsel you few interesting things or tips.
    Perhaps you could write next articles relating to
    this article. I want to learn more things approximately it!

    Stop by my homepage Pure CBD Softgels Cost (Sidney)

  19. Testo X Men

    Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
    Appreciate it!

    my website … Testo X Men

  20. Merlin

    Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a blog website?
    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright
    clear concept

    Here is my website Extreme Muscle XXL Reviews (Merlin)

  21. Extreme Keto EFX Pills

    Greetings, There’s no doubt that your website might be having
    web browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your web
    site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in I.E.,
    it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Other than that, great blog!

    my web site :: Extreme Keto EFX Pills

  22. Numbers

    I like this site because so much useful material on here :D.

    My site; UltraXTend, Numbers,

  23. Thomas

    Amazing! Its really remarkable article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.

  24. Lucia

    My spouse and I stumbled over here different web address
    and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you.
    Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.

  25. Rena

    Nice respond in return of this issue with solid arguments and telling everything about
    that.

  26. Muhammad

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  27. Matthias

    Hi there, after reading this awesome article i
    am as well glad to share my know-how here with mates.

  28. Cleo

    I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout
    on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
    Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one today.

  29. Rhea

    I do trust all the ideas you’ve presented in your post.
    They’re very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for starters.
    Could you please prolong them a little from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  30. Larue

    Good post. I definitely love this site. Continue the good work!

  31. Kevin Sayer

    Right now it sounds like Drupal is the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  32. Doretha Elbaz

    I really like your wordpress theme, exactly where do you download it through?

  33. Ali Parmley

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It’s the little changes that will make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  34. Fashion Styles

    I am always looking online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you!

  35. Fashion Styles

    I have realized that of all kinds of insurance, health insurance is the most marked by controversy because of the issue between the insurance coverage company’s necessity to remain profitable and the consumer’s need to have insurance cover. Insurance companies’ income on overall health plans are incredibly low, hence some organizations struggle to make a profit. Thanks for the strategies you talk about through this web site.

  36. Beauty Fashion

    Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *