IS PERMAFROST REALLY PERMANENT??? by Ann Jones
The internet is a very scary place! I was browsing it drowsily when I was startled wide awake by the following story titled, “Alaska is a Ticking Time Bomb and Scientists Must Prepare as It Sets to Explode”, by Taylor Brown, updated in September 2019.
That article explained that Alaska’s permafrost (which covers about 85% of the state) is melting due to years of consecutive heat. Cities like Fairbanks and Anchorage that are built on Alaska’s unstable permafrost surface are beginning to collapse. If that isn’t bad enough, the melting permafrost releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That released carbon dioxide then causes more heat to be trapped, and that causes exaggerated melting.
But cheer up–things could get worse! Melting permafrost causes more devastating problems. For example, as the permafrost melts, a greater percentage of the land will be submerged beneath the waves.
Want more bad news? An entirely different problem is caused by the thawing of bacteria preserved in the ice. Some of those organisms are alive and can immediately begin to function. “The frozen permafrost, in other words can yield horribly virulent diseases and bacteria that have been frozen in the ice. This bacteria is made especially worse because we have had no exposure to it.”
And worse still, some of those preserved bacteria begin to feed upon other organic material in the frost. As the bacteria digest their quarry, they release gaseous methane. And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so it will greatly increase the speed of global warming. Both the Siberian tundra and the Alaskan landscape are pox-marked by holes in the ground caused by warming, melting permafrost.
But cheer up–the situation could get slightly better! As the permafrost melts, it exposes some new ground upon which plants can grow. And plants can take in carbon dioxide, store the carbon, and emit oxygen. These chemical reactions will slow global warming slightly and give us that oxygen we are desperately gasping to breathe.
So what can we do about this situation? First, we can go green. Second, we can avoid the internet. And last but not least, FOR A BREATH OF FRESH AIR, COME OUT TO HOOVER SAILING CLUB!