A new study has discovered that tens of thousands of miles of permafrost in northwest Canada are rapidly melting, adding weight to recent research that shows an accelerating decline in permafrost in Alaska, Siberia, and Scandinavia.
The disintegration of permafrost throughout the Arctic Circle portends a massive release of carbon, both into the surrounding environment in the form of sediment and into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. An unprecedented Arctic heat wave is accelerating its decay.
And while global warming speeds up, President Donald Trump and his climate change-denying administration continues to push for fossil fuels and massive deregulation. In his speech last night, Trump failed to mention climate change even once.
The study in northwest Canada mapped approximately half a million square miles of tundra and found that 52,000 square miles—an area the size of Alabama—is affected by the decay of permafrost, InsideClimate News's Bob Berwyn reported Tuesday. The collapse of permafrost is "intensifying," the researchers observed in the study published in Geology in early February, and it's sending enormous landslides into lakes and rivers that are capable of choking off life downstream.
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"Similar signs are evident in coastal Arctic areas, where thawing permafrost and bigger waves are taking 60- to 70-foot bites of land each year," Berwyn wrote.
"Scientists estimate that the world's permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere," Berwyn noted. Indeed, the swift decline of permafrost is poised to rapidly accelerate global warming, as Common Dreams has reported.
Berwyn reported: "Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote[...] The study didn't address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost. But its findings could help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions."
Accelerating the climate crisis isn't the only frightening effect of disappearing permafrost: last year, researchers also discovered that melting permafrost could release deadly pathogens frozen in the ice, potentially re-introducing ancient viruses to human populations without the immunity to fight them.