Siberia’s fast thaw alarms scientists

Siberia is melting. Meeelllting! Ahem. Of particular concern is a 386,000 square-mile expanse of western Siberian permafrost that’s been icy cold for about 11,000 years and sits atop billions of tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If the permafrost melts, the methane could escape, global climate change could pass a tipping point after which it is effectively unstoppable, and we, friends and neighbors, could be toast. Speaking of that, in today’s New Scientist a research team reports seeing mud and lakes in the region, some more than half a mile across, where all was frozen peat bog as recently as three to four years ago. “This is an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming,” said Russian scientist Sergei Kirpotin. “There’s still time to take action,” said Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth U.K., “but not much.”