Science

5 terrifying facts about the melting permafrost

As its name suggests, permafrost is meant to remain permanently frozen.

But Arctic soil is rapidly melting — twice as fast as other parts of the world.

Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

>> That has major consequences for humans and the environment. Here are 5 effects you need to know.

1. Melting permafrost will making climate change worse

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Carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, is locked inside permafrost.

As it melts, the gas will be released. NASA says permafrost could become a permanent source of carbon by 2100.

Permafrost melting on Alaska's North Slope.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Charles Miller

2. Giant craters in the Earth are forming

Arctic craters are opening up due to another gas — methane — building up underground.

Siberia's Yamal peninsula saw a 160-foot-deep hole erupt in August.

3. Buildings are toppling

Wetter, softer ground means buildings and other structures will crumble.

In May, a Russian oil tank spilled, polluting Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers and turning them red.

Metal poles support a building under renovation due to damage caused by the thawing permafrost during a summer heat wave on Svalbard archipelago, August 2020.Sean Gallup/Getty

4. Melting land exposes relics of the past

Ancient landscapes and animals — sometimes perfectly preserved — are revealed when the icy tundra melts.

Tap to see Dogor, an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia. >>

Center for Paleogenetics/Twitter

5. Old diseases could come back

Maybe the freakiest element exposed by melting land? Diseases.

Anthrax escaped permafrost in 2016. It made 13 people sick and killed more than 2,000 reindeer.

And in 2014 researchers reported a giant, still-infectious, 30,000-year-old virus in Siberian ice. (It can only infect amoebas, not humans.)

France 24

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