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Current Affairs

Thawing permafrost

Date: 16 September 2021 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

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

 

Background

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

 

Details

  • 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.