Vicious Climate Cycle in Russia Is Melting Permafrost, Releasing Methane and Fueling Wildfires

A large wildfire in Russia.

Rising temperatures heated by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels like oil and gas are melting permafrost — land previously frozen year round — and causing problems for Russia’s oil and gas industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Over the last 45 years, Russian temperatures have risen 2.5 faster than the global average. The melting permafrost on which two-thirds of the country sits is also physically destabilizing oil and gas infrastructure and forcing companies to spend millions to prevent disasters, like when a ruptured tank in remote Siberia hemorrhaged 20,000 tons of diesel fuel.

The hotter temperatures and melting permafrost are accelerating vicious climatic cycles by releasing heat-trapping methane previously frozen underground and fueling almost incomprehensible wildfires. Russian wildfires have burned 65,000 square miles (41.6 million acres) so far this year, Grist reported last week, and in July and August alone produced more CO2 pollution than the entire country of Germany in a year.

For a deeper dive:

The Wall Street Journal, Grist; Climate Signals background: Arctic amplification, Wildfires

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