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Current Affairs

Thawing permafrost

Date: 16 September 2021 Tags: Climate Change


The IPCC report says that thawing of the ground due to global warming is expected to release greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.



Permafrost covers about 15% of the land area of the globe. The Arctic permafrost is declining due to climate change.



  • Permafrost is a ground that remains at or below zero degree Celsius for at least two consecutive years. It can be soil, rock and any included ice or organic material.

  • The immediate effects will be on roads or buildings that are constructed on permafrost. This includes the Russian railway.

  • In Canada, it is necessary to chill the ground to make the foundation of the road colder. This has increased the cost of road construction.


The big problem

  • The biggest of the problem is related to organic matter that is stored underground in cold environment.

  • The melting of soil will make this organic matter available for microbes to break down. This will release carbon dioxide and also methane.

  • These gases are majorly responsible for global warming and climate change.  Methane is about 25 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

  • About 1500 billion tons of carbon is currently buried under the permafrost. The top three meters has 1000 billion tones.

  • The current carbon emissions are 1 billion tons per year. One percent of release of this trapped carbon will be catastrophic for the world.


The additional concerns

  • The forest fires in Russian tundra have emitted large amounts of carbon. Restoring the emitted carbon in form of forests will take a long time.

  • The dead animals preserved in permafrost may host microbes such as virus. These viruses may start reproducing to cause illness.

  • The environment now due to global warming is getting suitable for virus and other organisms to prosper, creating fears.