Tue. Dec 7th, 2021


Molten water ponds in Permafrost, Canada.

Across the northern tip of our planet, things are so cold that about 9 million square miles (23 million square kilometers) of the earth remain frozen throughout the year. But as the climate warms it is changing and so on Permafrost thaws, It Releases trapped greenhouse gases From the soil, scientists warn that radioactive waste and dangerous bacteria and viruses can also emerge, which can harm both wildlife and humans.

These are the latest threats to a rapidly melting ground, with images of sinkholes caused by methane explosions. Become routine. A team of scientists recently attempted to measure a variety of hazards caused by molten permafrost in addition to the apparent warming of the climate. They had results Published Nature climate change last month.

Kimberly Miner, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the study, said: ESA press release. “Although some dangers related to the melting of elements have been detected up to a million years ago, we are far from being able to accurately model and predict when and where this will happen. This study is critical.”

There are good reasons to be wary of pathogens that come from ice. In the summer, a team of scientists Discovery Report 28 fancy viruses in a glacier in Tibet. In addition to their tough profile, these viruses and bacteria tend to be so far away from mankind that our bodies may not be able to recognize them as a threat. In March, researchers Report Finding deep-sea bacteria that were unfamiliar to mammalian cells. The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet, where researchers are rushing to understand the rate of rapid change.

A scene of Alaskan permafrost melting from the wind in 2019.

Yukon melting in Alaska in 2019.
Pictures: Mark Ralston / AFP (Getty Images)

“We have very little understanding of what types of extremofile-microorganisms that live in different conditions for long periods of time are likely to re-emerge,” Miner said. “These are germs that have come together with things like giant sloths or mammoths and we have no idea what they could do if they were released into our ecosystem.”

The premise is that once such germs have melted, they will mix with the molten water and spread throughout the environment, potentially creating new strains of antibiotic-resistant organisms. So far, 100 microorganisms have been found in the deep permafrost of Siberia as antibiotic-resistant, according to the ESA. And in addition to the still-blocked methane, carbon dioxide, bacteria and viruses, there are concerns about waste and chemicals from mining that have been frozen underground but will now enter the surrounding environment.

Radioactive waste products have been stored in the Arctic since at least the mid-1950s, when Soviet nuclear tests began in the region, and more than 100 decommissioned nuclear submarines were destroyed in the Kara and Barents seas, the researchers explained. Plutonium and radioactive cesium have been found in ice, silt, plants and soils that have been tested for radioactivity in previous studies.

It doesn’t even understand what the melting ground can do – and in some cases, what it can already do in infrastructure. Last summer, melting permafrost was a contribution Wide diesel spread In the Russian Arctic. Research Published in 2018 Shows that isolated land could affect 4 million people in the Arctic, as well as one-third of all infrastructure in the region.

Diego Fernandez, a climate and earth scientist at ESA, said in the same release that “NASA and ESA are joining forces to enhance scientific cooperation across the Atlantic so that we can ensure the development of strong science and knowledge so that decision makers are properly equipped. Information to help solve these problems. “

This warning is a prudent reminder that the human-powered warming of our planet is an unprecedented test, and we cannot predict all its effects. New disease Our concerns may be minimal If uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions continue.

This article has been updated with more information about the release of radioactive waste due to rising temperatures.

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