In northerly parts of the world where it is very cold, even where the top layer of the ground is covered in plants in summer it is frozen underneath . This frozen layer may start just 10-15cm underground . The frozen layer is called permafrost: a mixture of soil, rock and sand held together by ice . Swipe for a diagram!
20% of permafrost surrounding the North Pole is thawing (melting) rapidly and becoming unstable [2,5]. Unstable areas can collapse, leading to landslides and floods . This results in release of greenhouse gases  – we learnt about this in detail in yesterday’s post. But hundreds of thousands of people in Alaska, Canada and Russia live on permafrost ; how does melting permafrost affect them directly?
1) Infrastructure: when the ice is frozen it’s harder than concrete . But when pockets of ice melt, the land can collapse suddenly: several meters of soil can be destabilised within a few days . Anything sitting on top of where this happens, such as a house or road, will be damaged or destroyed [1,2,3].
The threat of collapsing ground has made it too dangerous for some Arctic communities to travel ; they are unable to reach their game traps, so they are having to find alternatives to their traditional food source .
2) Disease: when ancient permafrost melts, microbes that have been stored for thousands of years can come back to life [7,8]. Some of these microbes can infect humans and cause disease [7,9]. However, this is not yet a major health risk .
In 2016 an outbreak of anthrax (a modern disease) that hospitalised 20 people in Russia is thought to have been triggered by the exceptionally hot summer thawing frozen soil; a dead reindeer thawed, releasing anthrax spores which then infected humans [7,10,11,12].
 https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1392613 See: Figure 1
 https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/frozenground/people.html See : Paragraph 1
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4982572/ See : Paragraph beginning ‘Further to the complexities recognized in the Park’
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