Global warming is radically changing the landscapes of the colder regions of our planet. And so, from the Alps to the highlands of Tibet, and from the boundless tundra of Canada to those of Siberia, a new danger appears on the horizon: the thawing of permafrost, the layer of permafrost that characterizes regions of the Earth where temperatures remain constant below zero. The risks — which we read in a set of articles on the topic recently published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment — fall into two types: On the one hand, thawing soils will release massive amounts of greenhouse gases, helping to accelerate the increase in temperatures; On the other hand, thawing will damage soil stability, destroy buildings and infrastructure built on permafrost.
Regarding the first aspect, Expert Estimates We are told that there are currently more than 1.7 trillion tons of carbon dioxide and methane stored in the frozen soil that makes up permafrost. Human-caused climate change risks releasing these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, creating what scientists call permafrost feedback, a vicious cycle in which emissions from thawing permafrost contribute to increased temperatures, and these, in turn, accelerate the thawing of permafrost, and The subsequent emission of carbon dioxide and methane. It is not yet clear to what extent and how the situation will change, because research in this area is still in its infancy, but with the Arctic warming two to four times faster than the rest of the planet, there is definitely no need for this. rest assured.
Turning to infrastructure risks, a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena according to 30 to 50 percent of all roads, industrial facilities, and residential facilities located in the Arctic are at risk of thawing permafrost. And although these areas are sparsely populated, the damage can be significant. In fact, we are talking about at least 120 thousand buildings, 40 thousand kilometers of roads and 9,500 kilometers of gas and oil pipelines that originate in areas where thawing of permafrost can cause structural damage. In Russia alone, the costs of maintaining the existing infrastructure over the next thirty years may reach seven billion dollars. In Canada, by just calculating the damage to public infrastructure, we are talking about a figure of between three and six billion dollars by 2030.
And for those who think that the problem does not concern us, let us remember that even in some alpine regions, the soil consists of permafrost. And that’s its deterioration It really is a provocation (and more to come) costly and dangerous landslides and infrastructure damage. “The thawing of permafrost threatens the integrity of the slopes, and presents a real danger to the communities living in the mountainous regions – Remembers ice scientist Paul Kristofferson, from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge – There’s no shortage of dramatic examples: In 2017, a large portion of a mountain slope collapsed into the sea in Avanata, in northern Greenland, killing four people, and forcing the Greenland government to evacuate “the village of Nogatsiak” entirety, and permanently relocate its inhabitants to another country.
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