When you stand facing an exposed edge of permafrost, you can feel it from a distance. It emanates a cold that tugs on every one of your senses. Permanently bound by ice year after year, the frozen soil is packed with carcasses of woolly mammoths and ancient ferns. They’re unable to decompose at such low temperatures, so they stay preserved in perpetuity – until warmer air thaws their remains and releases the cold that they’ve kept cradled for centuries. I first experienced that distinct cold in the summer of 2016. I was traveling across Arctic Europe with a team of researchers to study climate change impacts. We were a few hours past the Finnish border in Russia when we stopped to first set foot on the tundra. The ground was soft but solid beneath our feet, covered with mosses and wildflowers that stretched into the distance until abruptly interrupted by a slick, towering wall of thawing permafrost. As we stood facing the muddy patch of uncovered earth, the sensation of escaping cold felt terrifying. The northern hemisphere is covered by 9m sq miles of permafrost. This solid ground, and all the organic material it contains, is one of the largest… Read full this story
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