12 May 2021

#AntarcticLog: Permafrost isn’t so frosty

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#AntarcticLog is a series of comics by Karen Romano Young. You can find the originals here

Outside my Connecticut studio (just a mousey old barn really), the early spring brown is giving way to dense lime-green lace. The snapping turtles emerged from their muddy burrows at the bottom of the pond to lay eggs, birds are nesting on the porch (house finch, tree swallow), and there’s a toad under my window, crooning under the blooming quince bush.

Based on the last few thousand years, it’s supposed to be like this: After a winter freeze comes a spring thaw. Not that there isn’t plenty of evidence of climate change: tornadoes and a longer growing season are among the easiest to see. Toward the poles, however, where global warming is multiplied, bigger changes are afoot: underfoot, actually, as the permafrost layer thins, buckles, and crumbles.

In Alaska, thawing permafrost has forced a village to move:

Reindeer hunters brought a mummified cave bear came to light:

#AntarcticLog maps the locations — and events — behind permafrost thaw:

In a visit to Pleistocene Park, we look at a plan to populate permafrost with the sort of animals that used to keep it trampled and frozen:

Karen Romano Young is a writer, artist, deep-sea diver, and polar explorer. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram