As the result of changing global temperatures, Arctic environments are changing at unprecedented rates and in an unpredictable manner. Permafrost across the region is melting rapidly, releasing massive amounts of flammable carbon gases. The peatlands that develop once permafrost has melted cause a variety of problems for Arctic communities and industries.
Oil spills and infrastructure damage have caused large scale environmental damage across fragile Arctic ecosystems. Beyond the catastrophic and headline grabbing spills like the Exxon Valdez, existing oil platforms and tanker ships spill an average of 1.8 times per year. Additionally, oil infrastructure on land is crumbling because melting permafrost destabilizes the foundations of most Arctic construction. Refinery platforms, pipeline supports, and access roads risk failure if they are not appropriately stabilized and planed for in the coming years. Destruction of this infrastructure through environmental change could cause more environmental damage to an already weakened ecosystem.
Arctic wildfires have also become more frequent in these developing peatlands. As permafrost melts, zombie fires can develop beneath the surface in methane-rich environments, smoldering year round and igniting surface material in the summers. These fires release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, further accelerating Arctic warming.
In order to understand the effects of climate change on the Arctic, we must understand the difficulties presented by melting peatlands, crumbling infrastructure, and oil spills. With a sound understanding of these factors, policy decisions must be made to address these problems in the rapidly changing Arctic.
Please consider the materials on this website and take steps to limit fossil fuel consumption.