The arctic  covers an estimated area of 4 percent of the total landmass of the earth. The area may seem small but it has been having huge impacts on the future of the world.

As the global temperatures are rising, the arctic has been subjected to high rate of melting and diminishing. One of the hugely affected sections of the arctic is permafrost.

What is permafrost?

The ice sheet is made up various layers of ice that have kept it frozen for millions of years. These layers are made up of the active top-layer  and permafrost, which has been frozen without melting for years. It is important to note that the permafrost layer is made of a mixture of ice, dirt and other debris. It also hosts animal and plant material that has been preserved due to the extremely low temperatures. Furthermore, it contains very huge amounts of carbon trapped in between the ice and debris.

Permafrost layer (Photo credit: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/permafrost/)

Why Permafrost Layer is Important

Permafrost layer is very important as it maintains terrain of the ground above. Due to the extremely low temperatures, teh hardened ice is stronger than concrete. Thus, due to this, in many areas , permafrost has acted as a naturally occuring foundation.

Why Permafrost Melting is Bad for Earth and Its Species

Melting of permafrost due to the increasing temperatures is  extremely dangerous and bad for both the earth and its inhabitants. Here is list of the expected adversities in the next few years, if they are not currently occurring.

Expected Outbreaks of Age-old Diseases

Permafrost can be described as naturally occuring incubator. Permafrost’s  extremely low temperatures preserve animals and other organisms for years.

Due to this , whenever permafrost thaws, these organisms get exposed releasing century old pathogens that are harmful to both animals and people. Such events are already occurring as Russia was hit by an anthrax outbreak in 2016. The outbreak was attributed to the exposure of infected animals that had been preserved in permafrost.

Recently, China, has been hit by the deadly coronavirus and bubonic plague that has been on the risk of spreading globally. The emergence of these age old diseases can be purported to have been caused by the ever melting permafrost.

Additional Carbon Release to the Environment

Carbon is one of the major components trapped in the permafrost. When permafrost thaws, the trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere adding to the already polluted environment.

As mentioned above , permafrost acts as a naturally occuring freezer. As the temperatures increase, organisms start breaking down the organic carbon in the debris.  Thus, the more carbon produced , the greenhouse effects increases to warm the environment.

Due to this an estimated 120 gigatons are expected to be released by the year 2100.

However, not all is wrong about the melting of the permafrost.

The recent thawing of permafrost has exposed new lands that can be used for farming and increasing food security.

Secondly , some preserved bodies and animals have been uncovered. Some of the “mummies” are estimated to be as old as 5000 years old. These historical elements have shed light in the history and survival of the human race.

Withal, all these studies are at the expense of the future of the world. Let’s strive to maintain the arctic.