1. Permafrost, ground that remains at or below zero degrees Celsius for two or more years, underlies about a fifth of the land surface of the Earth.
2. Melting permafrost in the Arctic is unlocking diseases and warping the landscape
3. Permafrost has been frozen for millennia. Thawing it is a huge disruption.
4. You can find evidence of a changing climate everywhere, but nowhere are the changes more dramatic than in the Arctic.
5. Our world’s northern polar region is warming twice as fast as the global average.
6. On average, Arctic sea ice extent is shrinking every summer. The Greenland ice sheet is becoming unstable, the biggest threat is the release of carbon and methane.
7. But perhaps most disturbing are the changes occurring underground in the permafrost. Permafrost is a layer of frozen soil that covers 25 percent of the Northern Hemisphere. It acts like a giant freezer, keeping microbes, carbon, poisonous mercury, and soil locked in place.
8. Now it’s melting. And things are getting weird and creepy: The ground warps, folds, and caves. Long-dormant microbes — some trapped in the ice for tens of thousands of years — are beginning to wake up, releasing equally ancient C02, and could potentially come to infect humans with deadly diseases.
9. And the retreating ice is exposing frozen plants that haven’t seen the sun in 45,000 years, as new radiocarbon dating research suggests.
10. In the 1980s, the temperature of permafrost in Alaska, Russia and other Arctic regions averaged to be almost 18°F, now the average is just over 28°F.