Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Russia: Siberia feels the heat, and that's bad news

Climate Ark, via Russia Today: In the Siberian Republic of Yakutia, melting ice means solid land is turning to mud. And this softer ground is causing trees to topple and roads to sink.

“This is a catastrophe for Northern Siberia," says Sergei Zimov, who's been studying Siberian frost for more than 25 years. He says this changing landscape will have disastrous effects: "All the towns and roads will be destroyed here. It will also lead to further warming of the globe which will be impossible to stop.”

But the biggest problem may lie below the surface. The thawing of frozen soil, known as permafrost, could trigger the release of billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. Researchers say this could have a serious effect on the climate and increase the rate of global warming.

Some of the effects are already plain to see. In just ten years a main road in a remote Siberian town has collapsed to become a bumpy canyon, seven metres deep in places. Many houses have been demolished or abandoned after the ancient ice under their foundations melted. Locals are also complaining that the thaw is disturbing their food supply due to swelling rivers. And these sorts of problems aren’t unique to Siberia. If temperatures continue to rise, it will have implications for the whole planet.

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