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Siberian Permafrost Cities In Danger Of Collapse In The Next 35 Years


Derelict buildings

Derelict buildings built on permafrost in Norilsk, Russia, one of the cities studied. Nordroden/Shutterstock

It is widely accepted that climate change is really happening and also quite dangerous to our life. In some parts of the world, it is becoming unprecedentedly warming and one of such places is the permafrost in Siberia.

According to the latest research jointly undertaken by Russia and the United States, it is found that the melting permafrost could cause the large-scale death of reindeer as well as resurrect long-dead strains of “zombie anthrax”, at the same time, it seems that the very cities built on the permafrost are facing imminent danger too.

The study was released by the journal Geographical Review. It had given warning that buildings and infrastructure in urban areas across the Russian permafrost region were at risk because of climate change.

It was indicated by the authors that in a worst situation, the “bearing capacity” of buildings built on permafrost could be decreased by 75-95 percent by 2050.

Generally speaking, the thawing of the permafrost could potentially cause deformation and falling-down of structures.

In their research, scientists had carefully studied four Siberian cities, namely Salekhard, Norilsk, Yakutsk, and Anadyr, they are all within the area underpinned by permafrost covering up 63 percent of Russian territory. A lot of researches have demonstrated that the Russian Arctic is warming at a rate of 0.12°C (0.22°F) a year, which is obviously higher than the global average.

As authors said, on average, the fastest changes took place in Salekhard and Anadyr, because the bearing capacity would be potentially reduced to critical levels by (the) mid-2020s. As for In Yakutsk and Norilsk, bearing capacity there would be expected to have the critical climate-induced decrease around (the) 2040s

It is suggested by the authors that while climate projections are not definitive conclusions, new construction techniques should be taken into account in face of the changes in the permafrost that have already occurred and will continue to do so in the future.

From their analysis, it is shown that climate-induced permafrost changes could potentially undermine the structural stability of foundations, so it is quite necessary to have new construction norms and regulations implemented in the permafrost regions accounting for projected climate changes.

In its conclusion, the paper says that a vital reduction in the stability of urban infrastructure in the Siberian permafrost region should be anticipated by the mid-21st century. It is not clear why President Putin would not ratify the Paris Climate Agreement soon, but it is quite obvious that Russia should act sooner rather than later.


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