YAKUTSK, Russia—Thawing earth once thought to be permanently frozen is springing to life and threatening a crucial chunk of Russia’s economy. The melting of the thick layer of the earth known as permafrost is a result of climate change, according to scientists and Russia government research.
Two-thirds of the country sits on such soil, including much of its oil and gas infrastructure. Since 1976, Russia’s average temperature has risen 0.92 degree Fahrenheit per decade, or 2½ times the global pace, government data shows.
Mines and plants are experiencing increasing corrosion leaks and cracks, stemming in large part from defrosting ground. In the pipeline industry, braces and other mechanisms, previously anchored into permafrost, often corrode, twist and bend when the earth below changes, according to ecologists and other researchers.
Companies are pouring millions of dollars into reinforcing buildings, monitoring soil temperatures and installing high-tech cooling systems. The phenomenon was a contributor to the largest ever spill in the polar Arctic in spring 2020, when damage to a diesel fuel storage tank in remote Siberia caused 20,000 tons of fuel to leak.
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