While most of us are experiencing global warming in the form of heat waves, droughts, extreme weather events, and wildfires, the Arctic is experiencing something far more intense. Sadly, the Arctic is warming is three times faster than the global average, causing snow to melt, native species to die off, and sea levels to rise.
Now though, massive sinkholes are forming along the Arctic seafloor — and environmentalists are looking to climate change as the root cause.
"We know that big changes are happening across the Arctic landscape, but this is the first time we've been able to deploy technology to see that changes are happening offshore too," Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute marine geologist, Charlie Paull, told CNN. Paull is one of the lead authors of the study surrounding the phenomenon, which was only just published on Monday, March 14.
"Clearly, such large changes would have significant implications for any infrastructure that might be placed on the seafloor," he continued. "Currently, there is little infrastructure in this remote region of the Arctic. However, this may change as continued warming makes the region more accessible."
Why are sinkholes forming in the Arctic?
Global warming has been melting the Arctic's permafrost for years — but little did we know, it's been melting subsea permafrost. According to Newser, researchers used advanced underwater mapping technology to find that permafrost 500 feet below the surface of Canada's Beaufort Sea has been rapidly deteriorating. And this is causing major structural changes — such as massive sinkholes.
Between 2010 and 2019, within a 10-square mile radius, 41 sinkholes have emerged.
Most of these sinkholes have been about 22 feet deep on average, though some were as large as 738 by 312 feet.
"We know that big changes are happening across the Arctic landscape, but this is the first time we've been able to deploy technology to see that changes are happening offshore too," Paull stated in a press release. "This groundbreaking research has revealed how the thawing of submarine permafrost can be detected, and then monitored once baselines are established."
This is basically showing how the structure is coping with the space left behind when permafrost melts. They assume this happened during the Ice Age, as well, and that it has been continuously happening for years — however it's likely that rising sea temperatures associated with climate change will likely accelerate this process.
Melting permafrost is also affecting surrounding areas.
In addition to creating massive sinkholes along the ocean floor, melting permafrost is also affecting communities in areas surrounding the Arctic. For example, those living in rural Siberia are experiencing rising temperatures, as well. The permafrost is melting at a rapid pace, and homes that were built atop the permafrost are now collapsing, because they no longer have a solid foundation supporting them.
"There isn't a single settlement in Russia's Arctic where you wouldn't find a destroyed or deformed building," Moscow State University scientist, Alexey Maslakov stated, after several homes in old Siberian cities such as Churapcha.
And while these discoveries have been interesting, to say the least, they worry scientists of what the Arctic will become within the foreseeable future.