Ferris Jabr
@ferrisjabr
Mon Jul 29 18:55:39 +0000 2019

I recently had the opportunity to visit an Arctic research station. One day we traveled four hours by speedboat to a stretch of exposed permafrost. The ongoing thaw had created a bizarre landscape: spongy terraces, hillocks of soil, disintegrating cliffs & scalloped walls of ice https://t.co/zsezWheIr6

The muddy riverbank was strewn with the bones of Pleistocene creatures: mammoths, bison, horses, wolves. Technically they're not fossils; they have not turned to stone. These are the actual remains of animals that lived tens of thousands of years ago, frozen until recently https://t.co/m6AtJiB02x

The bones were not supposed to be there. They should have been secreted away in the earth. But as global temperatures rise, permafrost dwindles—in some areas 70 years earlier than expected. Ancient graveyards are forced to the surface

At the same time, long-dormant soil microbes wake up and begin to eat organic matter, releasing carbon dioxide and methane. In a terrible cycle those gases exacerbate global warming, which thaws more permafrost and rouses more microbes...

The Arctic is eating itself up. It is melting, it is pooling, it is caving in. The Arctic is on fire, consumed by multitudes of flames—orange and fevered, hungry and invisible. We are why.

Several times that day, while walking the muddy shores, we were startled by a kind of terrestrial thunder—a split, a slip, a crash. Soil and ice surrendering to gravity. The sound of fractured earth.