Thanks to rising temperatures, the permafrost layer that holds carbon- and mercury-containing soil in place is beginning to melt and emit these gases into the atmosphere.
Permafrost—a thin sublayer of soil that remains frozen year-round—covers about 25 percent of the Northern Hemisphere. There are other dormant microbes that could be released as permafrost thaws, too, including anthrax: in Siberia in 2016, anthrax sickened 72 people and killed one. Scientists pointed to permafrost thaw as the culprit.
Permafrost thaw is caused by an increase of man-made carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. But in the process of melting and releasing stored carbon and other gases, the permafrost thaw actually accelerates the steady rise in global temperature. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. To combat it, humans need to reduce their own carbon footprint—which can be done by biking to work instead of driving, as well as lowering your daily energy use. We can also help balance out the carbon emissions and improve our air quality overall by planting more trees, which absorb carbon.
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