Siberia is normally one of the coldest places on Earth, but this summer, it’s scorching hot. In fact, the new temperatures have set a record. The town of Verkhojansk saw temperatures peak at 118F or 48C.
And unlike other regions that experience extreme heat, the region is not going to adapt well. Most structures are built atop a layer of permafrost, and this intense heat is now melting that permafrost.
Thus, the heat is not only threatening the health of residents, but their homes. And forecasts don’t see an end in sight.
What Is Permafrost?
Permafrost refers to the ground that is completely frozen and remains at a temperature of 32F (0C) for a minimum of 2 years. About one-quarter of the land in the Northern Hemisphere is permafrost.
For residents of these lands, there is no avoiding building structures and homes on top of this. And as long as the ground stays frozen, it’s safe to build on, but poses one big risk to the landowner.
One day it could melt, which is what’s happening in Siberia. So what happens to the structures?
The structures built on permafrost will slowly sink into the ground. And as you probably suspect, that is not a good thing. The house foundations may no longer be able to support the structure in the new environment.
Structural Disasters, Landslides, and Forest Fires Become More Common
Even before this extreme heatwave, Siberia has been dealing with the effects of melting permafrost.
In fact, just last year, a massive 20,000-ton diesel spill was the direct result of permafrost melting. The oil container at the refinery weakened as a result of the sinking structure, thus a spill occurred.
And as the ground becomes more unstable, the risk for landslides increases.
A recent study concluded that as more permafrost is thawed, the landside frequency and magnitude would increase. This just adds another threat to residents of the area.
Siberia is also home to gorgeous forests, and this extreme temperature spike can lead to more forest fires.
Just last year, due to the extreme heat in the region, almost 300 wildfires were active at once. And due to the isolation of the region, reacting to these fires is difficult. The fires result in huge columns of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Climate Change Is Becoming Visible and Costly
Climate change is fully visible now, the mountain of evidence that has been piling up over the years is now, unfortunately, becoming a reality. The world is warming and it is starting to change the landscape of the arctic region.
And for the inhabited parts like Siberia, it’s going to become very costly. After all, the buildings are literally sinking into the ground. And it’s even leading to critical infrastructure, like oil plants, to fail.
Combine this with other dangers like forest fires and landslides, and the cost of climate change becomes astronomical. While we can still prevent it from getting worse, there’s no avoiding the current damages.
The world just needs to act.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.