Right now the permafrost is changing fast in the Arctic and will likely shrink more than 10% in the next 20 years with the permafrost borders shifting up to 200 km northward. Where permafrost is present, the ground is frozen up to 500 m deep with only the top meter thawing in summer. That means that lakes, rivers and wetlands in the Arctic do not generally connect with the groundwater. Surface water is abundant in summer offering breeding grounds for fish, birds and mammals. That paradigm is changing fast.
When surface water disappears, it affects breeding animal populations and humans who also rely on it for survival. Therefore, it is imperative that we study the impacts of climate change on general water security in the Arctic.
As the climate warms, natural sources of water and water infrastructure are both affected. Communities and support structure built on permafrost may have to move. Sanitation facilities may also be affected and can contaminate clean water sources if not contained properly.
Water quality is also being impacted adversely as mankind industrializes parts of the Arctic with mining and energy operations. Pollutants are released into the pristine natural environment. Natural pollutants are also released as the permafrost melts. Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by thaw and flooding, when lowlands are swamped from sea level rise and erosion is increased.
Source: Jill Heinerth Blog
Date: July 15, 2014