Digital Journal's Karen Graham reports on how the collapse of the permafrost in the Arctic North of Canada threatens further climate catastrophe.
hawing Arctic permafrost are slumping and disintegrating, sending rivers of carbon-rich mud and silt into waterways. This will lead to a climate-driven geomorphic transformation of our ecosystem.
A study published in February 2017, in the journal Geology, titled "Climate-driven thaw of permafrost-preserved glacial landscapes, northwestern Canada," describes the research efforts and findings made by scientists with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey in assessing the increasing intensity of permafrost collapse in the Arctic regions of Canada.
Many readers may remember the July 2015 collapse of a small, unnamed lake in the NWT, documented with a remote camera that showed it falling off a cliff and breaking through a melting earthen rampart.
Thawing permafrost has already caused noticeable changes in the landscape in some Arctic regions and scientists have been tracking temperature changes and thawing of the permafrost for years. When permafrost thaws, large thaw slumps develop, some of them impacting over 30 hectares (74 acres) in area. This can dramatically alter slopes and impact downstream environments.
In 2015, Steve Kokelj of the NWT Geological Survey told the Canadian Press the thaw slumps were getting bigger and more numerous with the increase in temperatures and rainfall. At that time, Kokelj estimated the land affected by slumping had almost doubled in the last 30 to 40 years.