By: Amanda Turner
Summary. On June 20, 2020, Verkhoyansk, Russia experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle. Reaching 38deg Celsius (100deg Fahrenheit), temperatures are continuing to reach dangerous levels, which is leading to the permafrost melting, the collapsing of infrastructures, fuel spills, and an increased amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. These high temperatures are becoming common for Siberia, with the monthly average temperature in some areas reaching more than 10deg Celsius (50deg Fahrenheit) higher than the previous average. For many, though, the increased temperatures do not come as a surprise as the prevalence of climate change is becoming evident throughout the world. A group of scientists from the Met Office found that the heatwave was 600 times more likely than it was in 1900, and this sudden switch is all due to climate change. Wildfires are burning is Siberian forests, tree-eating moths are swarming the land, and the permafrost is melting. The National Resources Defense Council defines Permafrost as any ground that has been frozen for at least two years, but this can range up to hundreds of thousands of years. Alongside, the NRDC lists that some impacts of melting permafrost as the emission of greenhouse gases, collapsing infrastructures, altered landscapes, and a possible increased risk of disease. Fifty-six megatons of carbon dioxide were released as the result of wildfires in Siberian forests in June alone and 150,000 barrels of diesel were leaked into a river which is now endangering a nature reserve near the Arctic Ocean. Additionally, one of the coldest cities on Earth, Yakutsk in Siberia, is fearing losing their homes as the permafrost melts; many homes and buildings will only stay standing if the permafrost in in-tact. Some damage has already been done in this city, with some buildings having already fallen and many already having damage to their infrastructure. Many communities in Siberia are losing their homes, and the rest of the world will soon experience the effects of the melting permafrost.
Why we should care? The increased temperatures and the melting permafrost are dangerous to cities and other populations in Siberia, even putting nature reserves at risk. The results of the melting permafrost will affect the entire world.
This article highlights the dangers of the melting permafrost, specifically the methane and carbon emissions. It goes into detail on exactly why the melting permafrost is dangerous in relation to emissions, and it breaks down the process on how microbes release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Scientists in the article explain the difference between the effects of the melting wetlands and the melting limestone in Siberia; the thawing limestone’s emissions of hydrocarbons and gas hydrates are more dangerous and abundant than the emissions of the thawing wetland. With the thawing of the limestone, more microbes can access it and release more carbon dioxide and methane into the air. With the increased emissions of carbon and methane, climate change will only get worse, and the rest of the world will witness the effects.
Science in Action.
Dr. Dim Coumou is a Climate Scientist and Associate Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Dim Coumou primarily researches global warming and how it influences extreme weather events. He coordinates Climate Data Science Research at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and he has expertise in several areas including climate change, climate models, and extreme weather. The melting of the permafrost and the increased temperatures of the Arctic Circle both fall under his areas of expertise. Most scientists predict that climate change is a large factor in the heat wave, and the melting permafrost is an example of extreme weather, especially for the Arctic. Dim believes that this heat wave, and melting permafrost, would have never occurred in a preindustrial society. The effects that the melting permafrost have on the environment will continue to affect the planet and will contribute heavily to climate change.