Siberia, as seen from the air
Tadamasa Sawada/Creative Commons

What Happens When Russia’s Permafrost Thaws?

Objects frozen for thousands of years emerge — and that’s just the beginning

The region of Yakutia in Siberia makes up approximately 20 percent of the area of Russia. It includes land within the Arctic Circle, along with a penchant for extremely cold temperatures in the winters. But even a space like this is not immune to the effects of climate change — and those effects are proving to be seismic for the numerous people who live there.

A new report from The New York Times details the effects of the thawing permafrost in vivid detail. Through interviews with residents, striking photographs and an analytical approach to science, the article powerfully demonstrates the ravages of climate change.

The effects of the thaw are numerous: villages have been flooded repeatedly, infrastructure has been damaged, and food stored in previously-freezing facilities has spoiled. The airstrip providing a connection between the city of Srednekolymsk and the rest of the country was shut down for a week due to flooding. In some cases, the effects of climate change have led to the movement of entire communities.

The village of Beryozovka has flooded virtually every spring for a decade, its 300 residents forced onto boats for weeks to run errands like buying bread. They finally accepted a five-year project to move the village 900 yards uphill.

Siberia is just one of the many Arctic areas being decimated by climate change. Last year, Earther noted footage of the island of Qikiqtaruk, which unnervingly depicted the effects of a warming climate on it. This winter, a new study explored the substantial risk that climate change poses to Arctic infrastructure.

The New York Times article also includes a vivid description of a severed wolf’s head that had been frozen for a jaw-dropping 32,000 years — along with a photo of it, which will probably show up on the cover of your favorite metal band’s next album. That sounds about right: apocalyptic listening for ominous times for the world around us, whether or not you call the Arctic home.

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