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Permafrost, victim of global warming

In one of the northernmost corners of Russia lie the Lena river delta and its multiple islands. One of them is called Saymolov and harbours a scientific station dedicated to the study of permafrost. Every year for ten years, German and Russian scientists have been coming in the summer months to capture the consequences of climate change on the region’s biodiversity. A 2°C rise in temperature has been recorded and it triggered the thawing of some of the permafrost. Landslides and releases of viruses and glass-house effect gases have followed, participating in a phenomenon called “permafrost feedback”. The carbon dioxide and methane that enter the atmosphere after having been released from their frozen cask reinforce global warming which also increases its impact on permafrost, creating a climatic downward circle.

Scientists have built a new and modern station in 2013 and can now spend the winter months studying on site, as they dispose of more comfortable premises than the rural lodge they use to share with the natural reserve guardians. The mission is supported by Vladimir Putin and depends on the Permafrost Institute of Yakutsk, a city of East Siberia built on frozen soil that allows in situ studies of the permafrost. Besides, its melting raises economic issues: one can find mammoth tusks in the soil, as well as oil reserves and minable resources.

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