Russia’s large permafrost areas may shrink by 15 – 30%, with a 150 – 200 kilometres shift of the boundary to the north-east by the middle of the century due to global warming, endangering infrastructure in the Arctic zone, an emergencies ministry official said Friday. “In the next 25 to 30 years, the area of permafrost in Russia may shrink by 10 – 18 percent,” the head of the ministry’s disaster monitoring department Andrei Bolov told the RIA Novosti news agency.
The temperature of the zones of frozen soil in oil and gas-rich western Siberia territories will rise by up to two degrees Celsius to just three or four degrees below zero, he predicted.
Permafrost, or soil that is permanently frozen, covers about 63 percent of Russia, but has been greatly affected by climate change in recent decades. Continued thawing of permafrost threatens to destabilise transportation, building, and energy extraction infrastructure in Russia’s colder regions. “The negative impact of permafrost degradation on all above-ground transportation infrastructure is clear,” Bolov added. Scientists have said that permafrost thawing will set off another problem because the process will release massive amounts of greenhouse gas methane currently trapped in the frozen soil. But with more than two-thirds of their complex and fragile ecosystems based on permafrost, Russia is expected to experience some of the earliest and most dramatic effects of climate change, and almost all of them bad, according to scientist Anatoly Shvidenko. Using an integrated modeling and systems analysis approach Shvidenko and his team conclude that water supplies in vast areas of the region may decrease substantially, an explosive acceleration of natural disturbances, particularly wildfires and outbreaks of insect infestation, flooding of arable land in river valleys, may decrease substantially, Loss of soil fertility due to water erosion, soil compaction, lack of nutrients, changing water tables, and soil contamination, Green desertification in areas where forests are lost to unproductive grasslands