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Rus­sia may lose 30% of per­mafrost by 2050

pub­lished 01 August 2011 | mod­i­fied 23 Decem­ber 2011

Russia’s large per­mafrost areas may shrink by 1530%, with a 150200 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 1018 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

(Source: The Inde­pen­dent, 31.07.2011; web­site Inter­na­tional Insti­tute for Applied Sys­tems Analysis)

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