08/2019 The New York Times

Russian land of permafrost and mammoths is thawing


Global warming is shrinking the permanently frozen ground across Siberia, disrupting everyday life in one of the coldest inhabited places on earth.

A dispatch from the far eastern Russian region of Yakutia, with words by New York Times Moscow bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar.

The region, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, is often known as the Kingdom of Winter and 90% of its surface is covered with permafrost — permanently frozen ground — sometimes as much as 10 feet deep. This ground is now thawing underfoot. The Arctic, including much of Siberia, is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world, with average temperatures in Yakutsk, the regional capital, rising more than 2.5 degrees Celsius in recent decades, from -10 to -7.5. As the permafrost thaws, land sinks and transforms the terrain into an obstacle course of hummocks and craters, or sinks further into swamps and lakes. Houses slip and fall, animals are forced to change centuries-old hunting and migration patterns, and floods increasingly wreak havoc on the land. Some villages are threatened with being completely flooded, and indigenous peoples are more at risk than ever. Even in the capital, Yakutsk, subsiding ground has damaged around 1,000 buildings.