Permafrost is the frozen foundation of much of the land in Northern Canada and its melting from global warming is causing major problems. Coastal scientist Dustin Whalen has witnessed arctic land sliding into the sea first-hand.
Huge amounts of carbon are trapped in permafrost and it being released through melting will worsen the effects of climate change. The active layer of the arctic surface freezes and thaws regularly, but permafrost is supposed to remain frozen.
In the very north of Canada, thawing permafrost has been permanently damaging the landscape. The remote community of Tuktoyaktuk is in danger of its land collapsing into the sea.
One island in Tuktoyaktuk is eroding about two meters each year and the entire island is only 37 meters wide. Important shipping lanes and channels are getting shallower because of the coastlines eroding.
As the permafrost melts ancient viruses, bacteria, and diseases could be released. Researchers are looking through all the possible outcomes of permafrost thawing and ways to slow it down.
Credits: The Big Thaw
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Almost 23 million square kilometers of the Northern Hemisphere and roughly half of Canada sit on top of permafrost. At Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, it's what is trapped inside the permafrost that has scientists most concerned; there are about 1,500 billion tons of carbon locked up in permafrost in the Arctic. If permafrost continues to melt, the potential release of greenhouse gases will have devastating consequences for the Earth's climate.
Length: 21 minutes
Copyright date: ©2017
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