Siberia might as well be where the world begins to end
Scientists warn that global warming could unleash potentially harmful viruses long buried in the snow (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

Already a bleak place, the northern Russian region is looking much bleaker of late. It is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, with sometimes deadly, sometimes bizarre consequences.

1. Massive sinkholes

As the frozen ground warms up, dozens of craters have formed, including one mile-long, 300-foot-deep sinkhole. Researchers are afraid to get close to the craters for fear of methane geysers shooting off.

2. Methane unleashed

We don’t want to watch methane literally bubble up from under the grass. And we certainly don’t want the billions of tons of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost — which contains more than twice what’s in the atmosphere today — to be unleashed. Some scientists fear that alone could raise global temperatures by 0.7 degrees Celsius.

3. Smallpox, anthrax, and who knows what else

Warming temperatures have resurrected centuries-old anthrax spores that were dormant in Siberian permafrost, sickening 72 nomadic herders and killing one child. Experts predict that smallpox could also make a comeback as frozen burial grounds thaw.

Legend has it that “Siberia” comes from an indigenous word for “sleeping land.” Now, that land is waking up with fury.

By Kate Yoder, Grist