Melting ice: the alarming cause for ancient viruses’ revival

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At this point, I believe we can all agree that global warming is REAL – and it is an ever-growing problem: melting ice. If you feel as if it hasn’t affected you yet, so it doesn’t really concern you, this might change your mind. As the world’s layers of ice are melting, we are getting closer and closer to another disease outbreak.

What does melting ice mean?

Well, as we know, glaciers form over years and years’ worth of ice build-up. But as temperatures continue to rise, the ice that has been trapped in one place comes undone Therefore, bacteria that has been living within for decades is discharged. As the ice melts and becomes water, harmful viruses could be released through various waterways.

A very important factor here is the layer of PERMAFROST.

What is permafrost?

Melting ice: the alarming cause for ancient viruses’ revival
Source: climatekids.nasa.gov

According to the Oxford Dictionary, permafrost is “a thick subsurface layer of soil that remains below freezing point throughout the year, occurring chiefly in polar regions”. It is not unusual for it to melt during the warmer seasons, like in the summer. However, because of the rising temperatures, the layers of permafrost continue melting throughout the year and exposing older and more dangerous layers. This type of soil preserves bacteria. And when I say older, I mean up to millions of years old.

Furthermore, deep layers of permafrost also host gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Since these layers are now exposed, dangerous amounts of these gases are being released into the atmosphere.

How is that possible?

Melting ice: the alarming cause for ancient viruses’ revival
Source: metro.co.uk

As related by BBC “people and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries, so it is conceivable that other infectious agents could be unleashed”. Moreover, “scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia”.

As scary as this sounds, it is a reality we have to be cautious of. The damage these diseases have caused back in the day is an alarming wake-up call about what our future on this planet holds. And what it could come to. Long-gone viruses can come back to life through their dead possessors. The number of viruses that researchers have to keep track of (because of how fast ice, around the world, is melting), could mean a race for human life.

However, BBC states that “global warming does not have to directly melt permafrost to pose a threat. Because the Arctic sea ice is melting, the north shore of Siberia has become more easily accessible by sea. As a result, industrial exploitation, including mining for gold and minerals, and drilling for oil and natural gas, is now becoming profitable.”

The combination of melting ice and harmful digging operations in the area could be a recipe for disaster.

I think what we can gather from this is: how we treat our planet dictates how IT treats us. After a year of living with the COVID-19 virus outbreak, I believe we can agree that this is a VERY serious issue that needs to be kept under control.

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