According to Russia’s government, melting Permafrost could result in the release of deadly bacteria and viruses from Russia’s Arctic Regions.
Russian senior diplomat Nikolay Korchunov who is the Arctic Council’s chair, stated Monday that microbes in frost can be trapped for thousands of years and could ‘wake up’ due to global warming.
Korchunov explained that the Council had established a biosafety project to investigate the possible risks and potential effects of the reemergence disease which could have been frozen from at least the previous ice age.
Russia created a new entity to investigate the dangers posed by bacteria and viruses from the permafrost when it thaws. The image shows a virus previously found in the permafrost.
Permafrost is a permanently frozen ground which doesn’t typically thaw during summer. In the past decade, it has been rapidly defrosting quickly, giving rise to preserved ancient animals. (It’s pictured with a head from a 40,000-year old wolf).
Speaking to TV channel Zvezda on Monday, he said: ‘There is a risk of old viruses and bacteria waking up.
He said, “Because this, Russia initiated a project of ‘biosafety” within the Arctic Council.”
He said that the project would be responsible for assessing “risks and hazards” related to “permafrost degrading” and future infectious diseases.
Permafrost is a ground that remains frozen indefinitely even during the summer months, and covers approximately 65 percent of Russian territory.
Global warming is causing temperatures to rise, and the ground is starting to warm up. This means that animals and other objects which have been frozen for many thousands of years are now being rediscovered.
The remains of wooly rhinos that went extinct around 14,000 years ago and a 40,000-year-old wolf’s head – so perfectly preserved it still had fur – have been unearthed in recent years.
The wooly mammoth has been a major contributor to the development of an industry. Hunters go out in search of skeletons that can be extracted from them and sold to ivory dealers.
Nikolay Korchunov (a top Russian diplomat and the head of the Arctic Council) said that the new biosafety project would look into the risks posed by old diseases.
However, the possibility that the diseases they may have been carrying could still be present in these well-preserved animals has sparked concern.
Jean Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University is a viralologist. Last year, Claverie warned about ‘extremely positive’ evidence that it was possible to revive bacteria from deep Permafrost.
Professor Claverie even discovered one such virus himself – pithovirus – which, when defrosted from permafrost began attacking and killing amoebas.
While the pithovirus, which had been frozen for some 30,000 years before the experiment, is harmless to humans, Professor Claverie said it demonstrates that long-frozen viruses can ‘wake up’ and begin re-infecting hosts.
Scientists are divided on the precise age of Arctic ice caps, permafrost that surrounds them, and the age of objects within.
But most defrosted discoveries that have been uncovered so far date from the last ice age, around 115,000 to 11,700 years ago.
Aside from the potential release of ancient diseases, scientists warn permafrost melt poses an even greater threat due to the release of carbon dioxide and methane gases as organic matter trapped within it defrosts and begins rotting.
In July, the remains of an extinct wooly rhinoceros are found in the permafrost.
The Batagaika Crater, in Russia’s Yakutia region, is a huge dip in the landscape caused as permafrost thaws out and collapses on itself
Global warming is caused by both gases. This will cause melting to accelerate.
Russian infrastructure and Russian towns are at high risk due to melting.
After a large oil leakage in the Arctic Circle last winter, the meltdown of a diesel storage tank was caused by the ground surrounding it giving way.
Vladimir Putin, against this backdrop has become more vocal about permafrost melt threat and global warming generally.
Last year, he spoke to the crowd at a conference, saying that it affected pipeline systems and residential districts constructed on permafrost.
“We will be very affected if 25 to 25% of the layers near-surface of permafrost melt by 2100. This is approximately three to five meters.