Holly streets, unstable buildings, slippery slopes: in some regions of Russia, people are suffering from the consequences of climate change on their doorstep. The trigger is intense heat. This leads to devastating forest fires and thawing of permafrost.
The risk of home collapse is increasing
Almost two-thirds of Russia’s land area is permanently frozen. “If the permafrost thaws, there is a danger of houses collapsing – a dangerous trend at the moment,” says engineer Ali Karimov.
In many permafrost regions, houses stand on stilts that extend ten to 30 meters below the surface. They are designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in the event of temperature fluctuations. However, cracks in the exterior walls of the houses show that the floor is moving. As the weather gets warmer and warmer, the ground sinks deeper—and the stakes can hardly save the homes from collapsing.
Every third building is damaged
In Norilsk, the northernmost city in the world, 240 homes must be completely renovated or are no longer habitable due to rising temperatures. Every third building is already deformed, says Dmitry Karasev, the mayor of Norilsk. The city has already dispensed with new high-rise buildings and since 2002 only smaller buildings have been built on the thawing land.
The Russian Ministry of Environment estimates that the damage from thawing permafrost could reach the equivalent of 57 billion euros by 2050. Money that may be missing elsewhere, for example for social spending.
So that the houses on the melted permafrost do not collapse, the foundations and floors are artificially cooled by means of thermal stabilizers.
Dangerous methane gas leak
The sweltering heat in Russia a year ago released large amounts of methane. To clarify: permafrost soils are like huge freezers, in which there are huge amounts of plant and animal remains. When the temperature rises, it is broken down by microbes, allowing methane to escape.
A team led by Bonn scientist Nicholas Fruitzheim also discovered that a lot of methane was released in two limestone regions in the hot summer of 2020 in northern Siberia. Experts fear that the cracks and cave systems in the limestone, which were previously filled with ice and gas hydrates, are becoming permeable as a result of rising temperatures and the ingress of harmful gases into the atmosphere. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“Large amounts of methane emission in permafrost regions will greatly exacerbate the climate crisis,” said Heinrich Schaefer of the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in New Zealand. (SDA)
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