Melting Permafrost Thaws Dead Reindeer Causing Deadly ‘Zombie Anthrax’ Outbreak
OutdoorHub Reporters 08.04.16
Climate change has been impacting Earth for a long time, but this is certainly one of the bizarre side-effects of global warming. In Russia, what sounds like the beginning of a Hollywood zombie thriller is becoming a real life issue.
Conditions that are melting Arctic permafrost are revealing carcasses of deer that were infected with anthrax some 75 years ago, when World War II raged. Warmer temperatures have reactivated the infectious disease, which can survive in hibernation for decades. Retreating ice and permafrost that is becoming more like sometimes-frost has already begun to yield other curiosities and dangers, some of which can do a lot more damage than a pile of dead deer.
Scientists in 2014 discovered something that sounds like summers next big movie hit: bacteria that eat through thawing soil. These organisms, including Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, gobble up nutrients and metabolize them into methane. With the planet warming at the rapid rate that it is now, widespread Arctic melting may serve these methane-burping bacterial colonies a feast of geologic proportions. And that means potentially dangerous amounts of methane pouring into an already toasty atmosphere.
Permafrost stores about double the carbon that the atmosphere does. The better the bacteria do, the more carbon joins the sky, the warmer Earth becomes. Repeat.