Siberia is thawing. But, wait, there’s more!

Scientists have long been worried about what many call “the methane bomb” — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost.

But now a study by three geologists says that a heat wave in 2020 has revealed a surge in methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from a different source: thawing rock formations in the Arctic permafrost…

The difference is that thawing wetlands releases “microbial” methane from the decay of soil and organic matter, while thawing limestone — or carbonate rock — releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates from reservoirs both below and within the permafrost, making it “much more dangerous” than past studies have suggested…

“What we do know with quite a lot of confidence is how much carbon is locked up in the permafrost. It’s a big number and as the Earth warms and permafrost thaws, that ancient organic matter is available to microbes for microbial processes and that releases CO2 and methane,” Robert Max Holmes said. “If something in the Arctic is going to keep me up at night that’s still what it is.” But he said the paper warranted further study…

The study said that gas hydrates in the Earth’s permafrost are estimated to contain 20 gigaton of carbon, approximately four times the amount present in atmospheric methane.

At the moment no one has a clue what the potential threat from this carbon is or will be as the climate warms. The only question is “How bad will the news be?”

The First Nation came to the Americas ~15,000 years ago. They brought their dogs.


Ettore Mazza

An international team of researchers led by archaeologist Dr. Angela Perri, of Durham University, UK, looked at the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs.

They found that the first people to cross into the Americas before 15,000 years ago, who were of northeast Asian descent, were accompanied by their dogs.

The researchers say this discovery suggests that dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before 23,000 years ago. People and their dogs then eventually travelled both west into the rest of Eurasia, and east into the Americas…

The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people. By this same time, dogs had been domesticated from their wolf ancestors and were likely playing a variety of roles within human societies.

Nicely enough, they still do.

Extinct baby horse unearthed in Siberia

❝ Dug out from the permafrost in Siberia’s Batagaika crater – AKA the “Doorway to the Underworld” – the tiny colt is so beautifully preserved, it looks like it could be sleeping. But the equine died a long time ago – between 30,000 and 40,000 years, during the Upper Palaeolithic.

Discovered by local residents, the foal was excavated by scientists from Japan and Russia, and taken to the Mammoth Museum at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk.

Way cool! [no pun intended]

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

200,000 year old soil found in Batagaika crater in Sakha Republic, Siberia


Alexander Gabyshev

Batagaika started to form in 1960s after a chunk of forest was cleared: the land sunk, and has continued to do so, evidently speeded by recent warmer temperatures melting the permafrost.

Many Yakutian people are said to be scared to approach the Batagaika Crater – also known as the Batagaika Megaslump: believing in the upper, middle and under worlds, they see this as a doorway to the last of these…

Batagaika started to form in 1960s after a chunk of forest was cleared: the land sunk, and has continued to do so, evidently speeded by recent warmer temperatures melting the permafrost, so unbinding the layers on the surface and below. Major flooding in 2008 increased the size of the depression which grows at up to 15 metres per year…

The result is an unparalleled natural laboratory for scientists seeking to understand the threat to permafrost due to climate change.

A recent expedition to the partially manmade phenomenon sought to date the layers of soil which had been frozen in time as permafrost, and also to gather samples of plants and soil.

Until now, it was believed the layers of soil were around 120,000 years old. But Professor Julian Murton from the University of Sussex – who inspected the site near the village of Batagai, in Verkhoyansk district, some 676 kilometres north of Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic – determined that the correct age is around 200,000 years old.

This project will allow us to compare the data of similar objects in Greenland, China, Antarctica. Data on ancient soils and vegetation will help us to reconstruct the history of the Earth…

RTFA for details of what has been learned from this pilot study. Much more to come.

Haven’t seen much discussion lately about the release of methane into the atmosphere from permafrost thawing. But, as it occurs, we shall. Poisonally, I think this will be a major accelerant to climate change.

30,000-year-old giant virus thaws out – comes back to life!


Virus inactive for >30,000 years – revived in a laboratory in France

An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say…It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.

The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed…

Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”

The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m down in the frozen ground…Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.

These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.

The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again…Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals…

However, the researchers believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia’s permafrost.

The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further…

Prof Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.

He said: “It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from…”

Professor Jonathan Ball said…”We freeze viruses in the laboratory to preserve them for the future. If they have a lipid envelope – like flu or HIV, for example – then they are a bit more fragile, but the viruses with an external protein shell – like foot and mouth and common cold viruses – survive better.

“But it’s the freezing-thawing that poses the problems, because as the ice forms then melts there’s a physical damaging effect. If they do survive this, then they need to find a host to infect and they need to find them pretty fast.”

I nominate J.J.Abrams to make the movie…

Alexander Kaptarenko sets new age record of 101 for Olympic torch relay

image

A Siberian centenarian became the oldest person to ever carry the Olympic torch Saturday when he breezed through his leg of the relay across Russia.

Alexander Kaptarenko, 101, had no trouble carrying the flame 200 meters closer to Sochi where the Winter Olympics begin Feb. 7.

Kaptarenko had practiced for the relay in the streets of Novosibirsk in recent weeks by holding a frozen fish aloft as a stand-in for the torch…

RIA Novosti said Kaptarenko was a world-class table tennis player back in the day. He participated in several international tournaments, including the 2012 European veterans’ championships in Sweden.

Read a few articles about Mr. Kaptarenko. I’m always impressed by age group athletes who are ten times more functional than I am. 🙂 Here’s a man who survived a couple of World Wars, the Siege of Leningrad, still competing in age group table tennis last year at 100 – and he didn’t care for the puny dumbbells suggested for training for the Olympic Torch relay. He hauled out a big old frozen salmon from his fridge and held it aloft by the tail while he jogged for training purposes.

Good for you, Alexander.

Panel calls for protecting world’s largest boreal forest


Click to enlarge

At least half of Canada’s 1.4 billion acre boreal forest, the largest remaining intact wilderness on Earth, must be protected to maintain the area’s current wildlife and ecological systems, according to a report by an international panel of 23 experts.

The report, published by the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel, was released July 22, the same day that panel members made recommendations to protect Canada’s vast wild lands at a symposium at the International Congress for Conservation Biology…

The goal is to protect these ecosystems before oil, gas, mining and lumber companies develop areas and extract natural resources, which often fragment and degrade previously pristine land, said Jeff Wells…associate scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and panel member.

“Elsewhere, [conservationists] are trying to stem the losses by protecting little pieces of land, or by restoring remnants to what they used to be,” by spending large amounts of money after development has already begun, said Wells, who is science adviser to Pew’s international boreal conservation campaign.

The new guidelines for conserving such large natural areas far exceed the previous science-based standard of protecting 10 percent to 12 percent of land to maintain wildlife. New science, including computer models that calculate the minimum amount of land necessary to support many species and their interactions, led to the revised guidelines, Wells said.

The report recommends that members of some 600 aboriginal communities in Canada should lead decisions and play major roles in planning where and how to conserve land. In this way, Canada can take their lead from Australia, where 58 Indigenous Protected Areas cover more than 120 million acres – an area larger than California – and employ close to 700 indigenous people in a ranger program. Such programs combine Western science while bringing in indigenous knowledge about hunting areas, sacred sites, key conservation areas and suggestions for economic development…

The hope is that conservation strategies in Canada and Australia’s outback will provide models for conservation in other parts of the world, said Wells. There have also been discussions of future conferences that might include strategies for conserving Siberian forests, the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin, which account for other large pristine tracts of wilderness…

Bravo. I hadn’t realized that the Pew Foundation had established segments as specialized as the protection of boreal lands. Wow. Time for me to spend more time studying their mission in addition to the superb polling and research most political writers examine.

Giant ‘UFO fragment’ falls near village in Siberia

A giant “UFO fragment” has fallen from the sky near a remote village in Siberia, Russian media have reported.

The U-shaped object, resembling a silvery dome, is currently under inspection by Russian experts, after being covertly removed under cover of night from the possession of villagers who found it.

After discovering the device on Sunday, locals from the village of Otradnesnky had managed to drag the “UFO fragment” from the thick forest where it had fallen. They attached it onto a trailer and took it through the snow to their village, where local inspectors then examined it before alerting Moscow authorities.

In an official statement, Sergey Bobrov, who found the object, agreed to keep it safe.

But following their stealthy removal of the 200-kilogram metal fragment, police have it under close guard, on orders from unnamed authorities…

“The object found is not related to space technology. A final conclusion can be made after a detailed study of the object by experts,” said Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.

RTFA for the details. My guess is someone found Boris Badinov’s ilegal vodka still.

Although strange things seem to fall out of the sky in Siberia almost as often as they do in Roswell.