A lot of the word’s permafrost is now in meltdown mode, with zero possibility that this is going to change, even if global leaders finally got off their duplicitous asses and finally got serious about climate change (too late to stop the melt).
A long litany of potential death awaits:
However, research, published recently in Nature Climate Change, found the implications of waning permafrost could be much more widespread – with potential for the release of bacteria, unknown viruses, nuclear waste and radiation, and other chemicals of concern.
The paper describes how deep permafrost, at a depth of more than three meters, is one of the few environments on Earth that has not been exposed to modern antibiotics. More than 100 diverse microorganisms in Siberia’s deep permafrost have been found to be antibiotic resistant. As the permafrost thaws, there is potential for these bacteria to mix with meltwater and create new antibiotic-resistant strains.
Another risk concerns by-products of fossil fuels, which have been introduced into permafrost environments since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The Arctic also contains natural metal deposits, including arsenic, mercury, and nickel, which have been mined for decades and have caused huge contamination from waste material across tens of millions of hectares.
Now-banned pollutants and chemicals, such as the insecticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, DDT, that were transported to the Arctic atmospherically and over time became trapped in permafrost, are at risk of re-permeating the atmosphere.
In addition, increased water flow means that pollutants can disperse widely, damaging animal and bird species as well as entering the human food chain.
There is also greater scope for transportation of pollutants, bacteria, and viruses. More than 1000 settlements, whether resource extraction, military and scientific projects, have been created on permafrost during the last 70 years. That, coupled with the local populace, increases the likelihood of accidental contact or release. Despite the findings of the research, it says the risks from emergent microorganisms and chemicals within permafrost are poorly understood and largely unquantified. It states that further in-depth research in the area is vital to gain better insight into the risks and to develop mitigation strategies.