Permafrost Thaw Triggers Anthrax Outbreak, Wrecks Roads, Generates Carbon-Spewing Peat Primed to Burn in the Heat of Human Warming

About 75 years ago, a reindeer fell sick to anthrax. Laying down to die upon the frozen ground of Siberia, the poor creature’s carcass froze in the Arctic climate. With it, the deadly infectious bacteria teeming in the deer’s body were stilled into an inert latency.

In the decades after, billions of tons of carbon bellowed out into the world’s air from fossil-fuel burning and carbon-spewing machines spreading around the globe. The heat-trapping properties of these carbon gasses subsequently warmed the Arctic and the frozen permafrost that was this ill-fated deer’s — and the anthrax’s — tomb.

Extent of Permafrost NSIDC

(Extent of Northern Hemisphere permafrost. Due to human-forced climate change, this permafrost zone is starting to thaw. At about 2 C worth of warming, a majority of this region will be under thaw pressure. Thawing permafrost releases carbon dioxide and methane, unearths ancient diseases, and causes the ground overlaying the permafrost to collapse. Image source: NSIDC and Google Earth.)

For the deer, there would be no second life, as rising temperatures bring decomposition 75 years after its death. But as the flesh of that deer warmed, the long-frozen anthrax bacteria began to revive. Over the past week, this climate-change-released anthrax spread back into the deer population, killing about 2,300 reindeer. It also leapt into humans, resulting in dozens of hospitalizations, with half the victims as children — and so far, one human death.

The Permafrost Tomb Opens to Release Undead Microbes

Permafrost, when boiled down to its basics, is primarily composed of frozen dead things. Much of the material is leaf litter, grass, wood, bark, flowers, or other frozen plant matter. But interspersed among what amounts to a many-meters-thick pile of frozen peat stretching for thousands of miles around the northern continental boundaries of our world, are millions and millions of entombed animal carcasses. Many of these are thousands of years old. Some have been there for almost two million years. And each of them may carry latent viruses or infectious bacteria.

Thawing Permafrost causes land to buckle and collapse

(Thawing permafrost causes the land to buckle and crack even as it releases ancient microbes long entombed in ice. Image source: NSIDC.)

Cold does not always kill these microbes, which are often resilient to harsh conditions. Viruses are famous for their ability to remain dormant in far-flung biological reservoirs for geological time periods. Meanwhile, bacteria are capable of sporification, the generation of a tough protective shell to ward off extreme conditions. As permafrost thaws due to human-forced climate change, these ancient, long-dormant pathogens can become active.

To this point, LiveScience states that:

Anthrax isn’t the only pathogen potentially biding its time in the permafrost. In 2015, researchers announced that a giant virus they’d discovered in the Siberian permafrost was still infectious — after 30,000 years. Fortunately, that virus infects only amoebas and isn’t dangerous to humans, but its existence raised concerns that deadlier pathogens such as smallpox, or unknown viruses thought extinct, might be lurking in permafrost.

Human activities such as oil drilling and mining in formerly frozen Siberia could disturb microbes that have been dormant for millennia (emphasis added).

As Bloomberg recently noted, the surprises coming from climate change can be similar to those hidden in a box of chocolates. But in this case, the nasty center happened to be anthrax.

Permafrost Thaw Crumples the Alaskan Highway

Thaw of the frozen, carbon-rich permafrost as the world is forced to warm not only poses an increasing risk for dangerous infectious disease outbreaks, it also results in weird changes to the land itself. Thaw causes permafrost to sag — sinking into pits, holes and bogs as the crystalline lattice of the old, melting ice collapses. Anything on top — be it buildings, highways, runways, animal paths, pipelines or telephone poles — can find its foundations undermined.

Such is the case with the Alaska Highway running from central Alaska southward through northwestern Canada. Constructed during World War II, this road has long been a critical 1,387-mile artery through which goods and traffic were delivered to the far north. With human-forced climate change causing the permafrost to thaw, the Highway and the communities it supports are in jeopardy. Every year, large cracks form in the road’s supporting structure — some of them wide enough for a grown man to walk in — as the permafrost beneath the road thaws and deflates.

Permafrost thaw causes roads to crack sag and buckle

(Permafrost thaw is causing northern roads like the Alaska Highway to crack, sag and buckle. Image source: NSIDC.)

Jeff Currey, materials engineer for the northern region of Alaska’s Department of Transportation, recently noted:

“The Romans built roads 2,000 years ago that people are still using. On the other hand, we have built roads that within a year or two, without any maintenance, look like a roller coaster because they are built over thaw-unstable permafrost.”

It now costs more than 50 million dollars every year just to maintain the Alaska Highway. That’s about seven times the average maintenance cost of a road of comparable length. Climate change’s impact on the permafrost is responsible for this increased cost. With so few roads running through the far north, the Alaska Highway is critical to the communities it feeds into. However, as climate change causes the road to break and buckle, the future stability of these communities is called into question.

About 1,800 Billion Tons of Flammable Carbon in the Thawing Permafrost

As if thawing, unearthing of disease-carrying carcasses, and sagging lands causing infrastructure to buckle and collapse weren’t enough, the permafrost itself contains enough carbon to significantly amplify human-forced warming. Some of this carbon will be released due to the process of warming-induced decay. In other cases, since much of that thawed permafrost is flammable peat-like material, direct burning becomes an even more rapid carbon-release mechanism. The vicious cycle can be summed up like this: warming = permafrost thaw = more fires = warming.

“You have this climate and fire interaction, and all of a sudden permafrost can thaw really rapidly,” Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Arctic Network, recently noted in Mother Jones.

In total, it’s estimated that between 1,300 and 1,600 billion tons of carbon is sequestered in just the top three meters of permafrost. Another 400 billion tons of carbon is estimated to be contained in the deep permafrost. To put these numbers in perspective, the atmosphere today holds about 850 billion tons of carbon. So if all the carbon in the permafrost were to hit the atmosphere as CO2, for example, we’d be sitting near 1,000 ppm of that heat-trapping gas, a truly catastrophic number. Thankfully, various inertia keep such a thing from happening all at once. Permafrost thaw takes time, and the process of transforming permafrost to atmospheric carbon does not occur instantly or completely even after the permafrost thaws. Nonetheless, the amount of heat-trapping gasses coming out of these thawing lands is expected to be significant.

As the Arctic is warming by about 0.6 degrees Celsius each decade, the permafrost thaws and some of the carbon that’s entombed there enters the Earth’s carbon cycle. This happens as the frozen lands heat up and are transformed into peat bogs or piles of dry, peat-like material. Methane and CO2 bubbles or wafts up from the newly-formed lakes and the decaying material below. The thawed peat starts to decay. If the decay is dry, then the carbon is released as CO2. If wet, it tends to release more as methane. At times, this gas blasts great holes in the surface or causes the topsoil and grass to ripple as a methane-filled blister rises beneath it. All that newly-thawed material becomes fuel added to the ever more numerous fires that continue to bloom and rage throughout the northern parts of the world.

Permafrost Burning

(Alaskan wildfire burns through a permafrost zone near a frozen river. Image source: National Park Service.)

In total, it’s estimated that around 160 billion tons of this carbon could hit the atmosphere by 2100. That would be like adding nearly two billion tons to the carbon emission from fossil-fuel burning every year. All told, such an emission would be enough to increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations by around 35-75 ppm (depending on the state of carbon sinks), if it all emitted as CO2.  The extra carbon in the air would then trap more heat, generating a self-reinforcing cycle that we call an amplifying feedback.

The frozen land therefore releases disease as it thaws, it crumbles infrastructure, and as it dries and melts and wettens and burns it releases still more heat-trapping gasses. All reasons why we should be very trepedacious about the now-thawing permafrost — embedded as it is with zombie anthrax — as well as the various and multiple other surprises human-forced climate change continues to serve up.

Links:

Anthrax Spewing Zombie Deer are The Least of Your Warming Planet Worries

NSIDC

The Alaskan Highway is Literally Melting

Alaska Sinks as Climate Change Thaws Permafrost

Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback

The National Park Service

More Wildfires = More Warming = More Wildfires

5 Deadly Diseases Emerging From Global Warming

Hat tip to Colorado Bob (who has been warning about diseases due to thawing permafrost for some time now)

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

(UPDATED)

Leave a comment

103 Comments

  1. Spike

     /  August 3, 2016

    Anthrax spores are especially long lasting and durable. “Scientists concluded after the tests were completed that a large release of anthrax spores would thoroughly pollute German cities, rendering them uninhabitable for decades afterwards.These conclusions were supported by the discovery that initial efforts to decontaminate the island after the biological warfare trials had ended failed because of the high durability of anthrax spores.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruinard_Island

    The Russians may have problems making this area safe if there has been significant dispersal of spores.

    Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  August 3, 2016

      Wow, thanks for that link, fascinating stuff.

      Reply
    • So I did some work on Anthrax from the emerging threats perspective back when I edited for Jane’s. It’s a very nasty bug. There’s a reason why it was weaponized and then subsequently never used in such a form.

      Reply
      • Robert, please check in with Tom Daschle, Patrick Leahy and the other recipients of anthrax letters regarding your statement that anthrax was never used as a weapon. I think anyone who came close to any of the letters that were tainted with anthrax would firmly assert that anthrax has been used as a weapon. I think it’s true that it has not been used in a large scale military fashion.

        Reply
        • Well, there’s a technical difference between the use of an agent as a weapon and the use of a fully weaponized agent in warfare. One of these things is decidedly more lethal than the other. But I honestly shouldn’t expect a layman to understand this distinction. So perhaps I should be more clear.

          For my own part, I participated as a member of a briefing team to the US Postal Service on the handling of anthrax tainted letters. My particular role was to broadly describe and give an overview of the bateria’s properties — ID 50s, lethality, time window for most effective treatment, treatment methods, symptoms for early infection detection, its transmissibility by the ad hoc letter delivery method used, etc. And while this use was disturbing, the one thing we were clear on was that this particular use of anthrax was more on the scale of a poisoning incident than that of an actively delivered and dispersed WMD (unlike the Sarin gas incidents in Japan, for example, which though improvised, used deliveries that incurred the effect of a mass casualty event). This is probably little consolation to the government reps who were targeted. But I can assure you that the lethality of these letters was nothing compared to the scale of an actual militarized biological warfare deployment of anthrax or even a decently improvised broader dispersal (thank goodness).

        • Agreed. Anthrax appears to have never been used as a large scale military weapon. It appears to have been used as a weapon to intimidate a couple of particularly liberal democratic senators. I believe the anthrax was ground fine/weaponized to maximize chance of inhalation/ingestion. I think when you consider the context (during time period post 9/11 when Senate was in Dem control and president was pushing for constitutional protections to be set aside for our protection, then I think this particular use of anthrax as a weapon may have been quite effective at steering the US in a certain direction. Maybe that contributes to putting the US on a point to Trump for POTUS and a moment when a sitting US Senator can say that it is scientifically proven that there is no global warming. I think facts are important. I think we create or contribute to a certain historical narrative when we speak carelessly. No offense intended, I just will continue to assert that anthrax has been used as a weapon. The use may have been quite strategic and effective.
          Warm regards,
          Mike

        • I won’t discuss specific methods for the enhancement of anthrax dispersal, infection rate, and lethality. What I will say is that the anthrax used in the letters was not effectively weaponized for mass effect. Minor alterations to this effect were made.

          The first and only recorded use of anthrax in modern war was during World War I. The Germans targeted livestock with what amounted to base and only slightly modified anthrax. The level of weaponization and potential lethality achieved later in the Century was far greater. Let’s thank goodness it was never used in these forms.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain

           /  August 5, 2016

          The infamous Japanese bacteriological warfare Unit 731, inflicted epidemics of anthrax, plague, tullaraemia etc on the Chinese, killing over 400,000. And then there were the 250,000 simply murdered in experiments so barbaric (including dissection of living, unanaesthetised victims)that they make Mengele look like an humanitarian.

  2. climatehawk1

     /  August 3, 2016

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  3. Colorado Bob

     /  August 3, 2016

    I posted this on the last thread –

    5 Deadly Diseases Emerging from Global Warming

    http://www.livescience.com/55632-deadly-diseases-emerge-from-global-warming.html

    # 3 on the list :

    Zombie diseases

    But anthrax isn’t the only pathogen potentially biding its time in the permafrost. In 2015, researchers announced that a giant virus they’d discovered in the Siberian permafrost was still infectious — after 30,000 years. Fortunately, that virus infects only amoebas and isn’t dangerous to humans, but its existence raised concerns that deadlier pathogens such as smallpox, or unknown viruses thought extinct, might be lurking in permafrost.

    Human activities such as oil drilling and mining in formerly frozen Siberia could disturb microbes that have been dormant for millennia.

    Notice the mention of smallpox , the greatest killer of human beings in history, which those “commies” at the UN managed to eradicate . And ever since then ever greater numbers of unvaccinated people are walking around.
    I gonna believe there’s huge numbers of bodies in the permafrost that died from smallpox.

    Reply
    • Updated… Thanks for this.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  August 3, 2016

        The dumpster fire at Trump Tower is out of control :

        Fox News Poll: Clinton leads Trump by 10 points, both seen as flawed
        Someone Needs an Intervention Here, and It’s Not Donald Trump
        Trump Allies Plot Candidate Intervention After Disastrous 48 Hours
        Trump’s unraveling Republican Party: How we reached this point

        Reply
        • Republican party policies, pandering to extremists and climate change deniers, Fox News, right wing rhetoric all helped to ensure that Trump became the candidate. In other words, Trump is just a symptom of the party meltdown.

        • Colorado Bob

           /  August 3, 2016

          You lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain

       /  August 5, 2016

      A smallpox epidemic, today, would be catastrophic.

      Reply
  4. Colorado Bob

     /  August 3, 2016

    Fire guts Emirates jet after hard landing; one firefighter dies

    It was 120F degrees when they were fighting this fire in DUBAI

    Reply
    • It’s unbelievable. The Cornwall as Subtropical report made me do a refresh on the movement of climate zones. Apparently in the Northern Hemisphere the tropics are moving north at the rate of about 60 miles per decade and have been since 1980. The Arctic zone, in contrast, has been receding by 40 miles per decade.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  August 3, 2016

        I would expect that this northward movement of climate zones is possibly reflected in plant hardiness zones as well?

        Reply
        • Plant species are moving too, but at a much slower rate — expanding their range northward by only about 4-5 miles per decade. What it says for hardiness is that the climate zones that native plants are adapted to are moving away at a rate an order of magnitude faster than plants are capable of expanding their range. As their habitable zones depart further and further north, the mortality stress greatly ramps up. Among other things, it’s one of the reasons wildfires are becoming so widespread.

          In past warming events (geological past), it is unlikely that temperature ranges and climate zones moved so swiftly. Perhaps if there was a big methane release, as some scientists theorize happened during the Permian, PETM or other hothouse events. But that would tend to be at the tail end of a much slower warming period than we see today.

      • Good find — it says a lot too.

        Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  August 3, 2016

      One wonders if the plane simply lost lift in the heat.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  August 3, 2016

        I saw this in Utah, moving drilling rigs, long ago , it was just too hot at altitude , there wasn’t enough mass in the air for the rotors to bite into. And our pilot was flying way out into the valley, and coming back as fast as he could, trying to gain altitude. He did it 4 or 5 times, and the compressor package landed around the same spot every time. And we were drilling on a snow field in early June. That contract was a real bitch, we nearly set our LZ on fire, when some jackass tossed a can of DW-40 into our burn barrel. It blew-up, and showered this 4 foot tall sage brush with flaming garbage. The helicopter people saved us, they had fire extinguishers big enough to do the job.

        God I miss that job.
        To get up every morning, and put on your boots, and know you could be crushed, burnt, maimed, or shredded. This why we are in such deep shit . Young men love this exact same thing . This is why miners go under ground. These FF jobs not only pay well, they give one that shot of juice every morning, that says, “If I screw up, I’m dead”. This is why rich assholes jump out of perfectly good airplanes. This is why Herman Melville, went to sea, and created the . Sailor Ishmael . In the hunt for whale oil to light the world. The very first oil field hands at Col. Drake’s strike were whalers. The theory was that this oil was shoals of whales from the Great Flood.

        It gave the world’s whale population a bit of breathing room. Because by 1959 we were hunting seals for their oil, not just whales.
        Watch the Deadliest Catch , the exact same thing, risking one’s life to live. When the juices jump in you are hooked.

        Reply
  5. Griffin

     /  August 3, 2016

    You know, when I first hear about the anthrax outbreak, I immediately thought of all the discussion and warnings that have been issued on this blog. It’s pretty crazy when you step back and just think of how many bad things have been discussed here and just how many have become things that we actually now see.
    I think that there are far too many folks that think they have a clue what global warming is all about. They think warmer winters, maybe some heat waves, but nothing that modern technology can’t overcome while they are alive. They think that those kooks on the blog are just a bunch of “alarmists” that are over the top with all of this “bad stuffs coming” rhetoric.
    Then 20% of the Great Barrier Reef dies in one year. A virus that Americans thought was a problem for poor tropical countries becomes established in Miami. A beautiful marina became so choked with algae that it was hazardous to breathe. The water in parts of the Great Salt Lake grew algae so toxic that water sampling methods had to be changed to protect the biologists from harm. The most pristine (if anything can still carry that label) reef in the Gulf of Mexico had a die off event that was so nasty that it even killed the clams. All of this on the heels of a year that saw Domoic acid so prevalent on the west coast that fisheries had to be shut down to protect humans from ingesting it through the sea food.
    Anyway, the regulars here get my point I am sure. Global warming means bad things. It’s really not something for us to play chicken with. The things we don’t expect can be really nasty. At least that is my experience having read things on this blog everyday as we progress through a meager 1.3C of warming.

    Reply
    • Steven Blaisdell

       /  August 4, 2016

      Pleasure yourself with Senator Ron Johnson’s statements today on how “…the climate hasn’t warmed in quite a few years. I mean, that is proven scientifically….”

      http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/johnson-climate-change-stalin-science

      This is sickness, a pathology, a state of delusion, by definition psychosis as per the DSM-V re: delusion: “a fixed, false belief.” What difference between this and 19th century ‘scientists’ ‘proving’ the negro race inferior? Sick, sad, and pathetic, and they need to be called out as such.

      Reply
      • Griffin

         /  August 4, 2016

        I hope he loses the election.
        It is a sad commentary on the state of the collective intelligence or the permissiveness of Americans to accept outright bullshit from elected officials today. The one line jab by the reporter regarding temps at the end of the article was not enough. It would be a tremendous benefit to our country if editors let reporters fly with the truth. If that article had a scathing sentence about how bad that man is spewing lies, perhaps we would see less of this disease in our politics.
        Wishful thinking.

        Reply
      • You’d think the ability to recognize reality as-is should be a prerequisite qualification for holding office.

        According to a consensus of the major reporting agencies (NASA, NOAA, JMA, the Met Office), 2014 was the hottest year on record before it was beaten by a large margin by 2015 which will with 99 percent certainty be beaten again by 2016.

        If Ron had any concept of truthful and responsible reporting as a leader of this country, he’d be saying that we are now experiencing three record hot years in a row at the end of a period of consistently higher temperatures that probably began in the late 19th Century, that ramped up in the 20th Century, and that has hit an even faster rate of warming in the 21st Century.

        Furthermore, the old record hot year of 1998 — the year climate cherry pickers loved to reference for so long — is now left far behind top annual averages. And it is possible that we will never again (in this generation or in many to follow) see another year as cool as 1998.

        Reply
      • Mulga Mumblebrain

         /  August 5, 2016

        Steven, I bet our insane denialist Senators are crazier than yours. ‘One Nation'( a sort of local ‘Billy’ Tea Party) Senator-elect, Malcolm Roberts (a former coal-mining engineer)stated (in a press release) that ‘…he had spent the last nine years working pro bono checking alarmist climate claims’ and declared that he wanted to repeal any legislation put in place ‘..as a result of the claim that humans affect global climate as a result of our use of hydrocarbon fuels, coal, oil, natural gas’. Describing himself as a ‘scientist’ he said ‘..we need to stop these ridiculous lies based on climate’. Blah, blah, blah.
        Naturally he is already a MSM favourite subject to withering questioning the equivalent of ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’. Not only is this disaster yet more proof that democracy cannot work rationally under capitalism (he simply repeats what the majority MSM empire of Murdoch says EVERY day)but the Party of ignorant and vicious red-necks he belongs to now have the balance of power in the Senate. Poor fella my country.

        Reply
  6. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2016

    The sermon on Jonah from Moby Dick

    Reply
  7. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2016

    Sea Shanties in Moby Dick (1956)

    Reply
  8. Cate

     /  August 4, 2016

    Reporting from One Percent Land:

    Crystal Serenity prepares for her scheduled departure from Anchorage on August 16 for ports to NYC via the Northwest Passage.

    Mr and Mrs Pendleton paid $90,000 for a ticket. Seeing a walrus is on her bucket list.

    “Meanwhile….she’s deciding which sparkly outfits to wear to the black-tie-optional dinners on the Serenity, and buying new binoculars in hopes of seeing a narwhal and a polar bear.

    ‘We want to see the things before they’re gone,’ she said.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/travel/arctic-cruise-northwest-passage-greenpeace.html?_r=0

    PS Crystal Serenity is not an ice-reinforced vessel.

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  August 4, 2016

      The snap shot of mindless stupid . As the world makes old people richer , they shit on the young behind.

      Reply
      • Syd Bridges

         /  August 4, 2016

        Could be called “Brexit Syndrome.”

        Reply
      • Cate

         /  August 4, 2016

        CB, how’s this for mindless: on their blog, the owners point out that the Crystal Serenity cruise will offer lessons in how to kayak “in floating ice.”

        In floating ice.

        *facepalm*

        Reply
    • mrecubed

       /  August 4, 2016

      This is just sickening

      Reply
    • “Voyeurs of Extinction.”…

      Reply
    • Josh

       /  August 4, 2016

      “‘We want to see the things before they’re gone,’ she said.”

      Sadly missing the insight that would have that rephrased:

      “We want to see the things before we’ve killed them”.

      Not personally of course, rather collectively by all of us. Through unnecessary carbon emissions emitted for everything in our hierarchies of need, from the basics of food production to the frivolities of diesel powered arctic ‘pleasure’ cruises.

      What a sad mindset society has got itself into.

      But it can change.

      Reply
      • Mulga Mumblebrain

         /  August 5, 2016

        The rich are the most responsible. Their greed propels the system, drives exploitation, destruction and inequality. We steerage passengers are just ‘collateral damage’. You don’t get rich by being virtuous.

        Reply
        • Josh

           /  August 5, 2016

          For sure virtuosity doesn’t necessarily lead to riches. But some people are just rich out of luck, and I don’t think that implies they are bad people.

          Somebody might be rich and have a correspondingly high carbon footprint but not know the damage they’re doing.

          For sure the highest emitters could do with being reigned in, and in fact I do think this should be enforced through law, but in my mind the real culprits in all of this are the people who knowingly mislead others to allow the current awful system to continue.

          If almost everybody was as appraised of the situation as those of us commenting here, I don’t think there’d be so many rich people going on pleasure cruises in the arctic, if I can put it that way!

        • Fossil fuel special interests are the center of gravity to the problem. If you’re looking for where the delay in response is coming from, where it has come from for decades and decades, it’s from the fossil fuel industry. Climate change denial grew up out of a fossil fuel based advertising campaign. Some industry actors are worse than others (Kochs, Exxon). But any member of the industry planning to sell and burn all their listed reserves (and drill and mine for more) and lobbying to do so is source of the rapidly broadening problem.

    • Spike

       /  August 4, 2016

      Gets more and more reminiscent of the wealthy few in The Hunger Games each year.

      Reply
    • Mulga Mumblebrain

       /  August 5, 2016

      Fingers crossed, Cate. Fingers crossed. How long would you last in that water, just wearing a little black dress?

      Reply
  9. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2016

    “Around the World”.

    Reply
  10. Andy_in_SD

     /  August 4, 2016

    Having worked in the bio warfare detection end of things, I was doing some work with inert (irradiated) Anthrax and other odd things. Having to deal in such matters, one does a bit of learning. Best not to mishandle? Forewarned and all of that.

    It is a tremendously resilient life form. Viruses come in different ranges of survivability when exposed to differing things such as heat, moisture, atmosphere etc… For example ebola has a very short period (up to ~24 hrs, 48 tops) before it is rendered useless due to degradation when it leaves a body. But…that can vary. When the Reston Ebola outbreak occurred, I worked approximately 200 feet away in another building. Lots of people wound up with weird ailments that year (pink eye? For no reason?). Ebola Reston was not as lethal as what we see on the news from African outbreaks.

    Even if 1% of the frozen viruses and bacteria are survivable, and only 1% of that can survive / multiply in humans, we do not have the antibodies / WBC’s floating in us today to deal with it (or they have developed to operate with modern variants). All it takes is one….

    If you are interested in a definitely scary tale of human tinkering with bio weapons, look no further than Renaissance Island in the former Aral Sea. The other soviet research facilities stores of weaponized and experimental agents were taken there as well starting in 91 by the trainload. They were buried in metal drums. The drums are breaking down. The Aral sea dried up, it’s not an island any more. Wildlife is now carrying unbelievably deadly bacteria and viruses. The sea was a barrier which now doesn’t exist, thus propagation within land animals.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vozrozhdeniya_Island

    “After the Soviet Union dissolved, the idea of mass destruction lost its relevance; Aralsk-7 was closed in November 1991.[2] All people who lived on Vozrozhdeniaya Island were evacuated within several weeks; civil and military infrastructure were abandoned and Kantubek became a ghost town.[2] Many of the containers holding biological agents were not properly stored or destroyed, and over the last decade many of these containers have developed leaks.”

    Reply
    • Andy_in_SD

       /  August 4, 2016

      Weaponized agents
      ===============
      Smallpox Anthrax Plague Botulism Brucellosis Glanders Q fever Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B Tularemia VEE Marburg Wheat stem rust Rice blast

      Researched agents
      ===============
      AHF BHF Bird flu CHIKV Dengue fever EEE Hantavirus Lassa fever Melioidosis Newcastle disease Plague Potato blight Psittacosis Ricin RVF Rinderpest Typhus WEE Yellow fever

      Here is a nice article on it.

      http://sometimes-interesting.com/2014/11/29/abandoned-anthrax-vozrozhdeniye-island/

      Reply
      • Griffin

         /  August 4, 2016

        Sometimes I question my sanity for spending my time in the company of you folks on this blog. You scare the shit out of me on a regular basis.

        Reply
      • Mulga Mumblebrain

         /  August 5, 2016

        Fort Detrick hasn’t been abandoned.

        Reply
    • Andy, you’ve been around.
      Any health related problems or worries from that job?
      Was it in SD area or elsewhere?
      DT

      Reply
      • Andy_in_SD

         /  August 4, 2016

        No concerns health wise, was trained quite well and always followed protocol for such things.

        Reply
  11. Joint Cyclone Center ‏@JointCyclone 26m26 minutes ago

    Hurricane #Earl batten down the hatches on the Belize City with hurricane conditions for Thu & into Thu eve

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  August 4, 2016

      Sure enough it looks like the strong northern eyewall has just hit Belize City. Godspeed to those in harms way:

      Reply
  12. Jay M

     /  August 4, 2016

    Will the Atlantic basin generate serial storms? Big question this year.

    Reply
  13. NASA Earth ‏@NASAEarth Via climatehawk1:

    Sea Level Rise Hits Home at NASA
    Watching Waters Rise Right Outside the Front Door

    For the past two centuries, two trends have been steady and clear around the United States. Sea level has been rising, and more people have been moving closer to the coast.

    As the ocean has warmed, polar ice has melted, and porous landmasses have subsided, global mean sea level has risen by 8 inches (20 centimeters) since 1870. The rate of sea level rise is faster now than at any time in the past 2,000 years, and that rate has doubled in the past two decades

    That has not stopped people from buying and building along the coast. About 55 to 60 percent of U.S. citizens live in counties touching the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Great Lakes. A recent study by business and finance leaders found that $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property is likely to sit below sea level by 2050.

    Reply
    • Sea level rise hits home at NASA (for example at Launchpad 39B, pictured here).

      Reply
    • – Many of these coastal locations have multiple petrochemical facilities as well.
      During Katrina oil tanks actually floated off of their foundations, and spilling or leaking as a result. (Oil… floating…? No surprise there, eh?)

      The Times-Picayune archiveOil seeping from the Murphy Oil tank farm onto Judge Perez highway, bottom right, and into a neighborhood east of the facility …

      Reply
      • I’ve lived in Navy housing in Long Beach, CA that had much the same landscape and terrain.

        Reply
      • And a news photo for the Crystal Serenity (A nice name for a funeral home….) crowd.

        – September 10, 2005: Coffins are seen dislodged from tombs after Hurricane Katrina, in a cemetery at Port Sulphur, 30 miles (48km) south of New Orleans

        Reply
  14. – Microbes and bio-films Scotland — rocky sea shore vs mushy permafrost.
    – Much of life as we know it springs from these small domains inhabited by microbes, et al.

    Oldest fossils in the UK: M.I.S.S. in Stoer Group, Scotland

    The Split Rock is an easy landmark to steer toward if you’re in the neighborhood. And steer that way you should, for there are MISS in them thar rocks.

    Microbially-induced sedimentary structures (MISS) are essentially stromatolites preserved in siliciclastic sedimentary rocks. Like stromatolites, they are evidence of ancient microbial biofilms which trapped, baffled, and bound sediment. Unlike stromatolites, they do not typically display doming-upward morphologies, and instead look like finely laminated “crinkles” in mud and sand layers. They may be disrupted by erosion, generating flakes or “roll-ups”.
    http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/2016/08/02/oldest-fossils-uk-m-s-s-stoer-group-scotland/

    Reply
  15. – SLR architect’s POV:

    Reply
    • – Archinect
      Mission: The goal of Archinect is to make architecture more connected and open-minded, and bring together designers from around the world to introduce new ideas from all disciplines.

      – Luxury condos sink in San Francisco’s Millennium Tower

      San Francisco’s Millennium Tower has been sinking at a rate of two inches per year since it was completed in 2008, which is about ten inches more than the builders had anticipated the building settling for its entire lifetime. Not to be boring, the tower is also tilting slightly to the northwest, giving the multi-million dollar residences within the building a slightly different view of the city and, perhaps, their investment. As the SFGate reports, while some blame the nearby Transbay Transit Center site dig for the sink, others noted that the building had sunk at least ten inches by the time the excavation began. But not to worry, officials say…

      – The Millennium Tower does the twist. Image: sfproperties.com

      Reply
  16. – Coal piles in a time of AGW storms:
    (Have to wonder of others like this — unreported.)

    Stormwater from coal pile spills into Broad River, Duke Energy says

    MOORESBORO, N.C. (WBTV) – Between 15,000 and 50,000 gallons of stormwater from Duke Energy’s Rogers Energy Complex (Cliffside Steam Station) coal pile spilled into the Broad River, Duke Energy said Wednesday.

    Duke Energy said the recent severe weather and heavy rainfall caused stormwater to overflow at the facility, located in Mooresboro, North Carolina. The spill was noticed during a routine inspection of the plant property Tuesday.

    “The inspection determined that stormwater had come into contact with the site’s coal pile, an area where unburned coal is stored for the operating plant. The stormwater that reached the river did not contact coal ash,” Duke Energy said in a press release.
    http://wncn.com/2016/08/03/stormwater-from-coal-pile-spills-into-broad-river-duke-energy-says/

    Reply
  17. Got an Extreme Weather Event? NOAA Tool Searches for Climate Link

    Searchable database shows whether climate change made weather events more or less likely.

    Phoenix, AZ:

    Reply
  18. Vic

     /  August 4, 2016

    Bangladesh and India are mounting a major rescue effort for a wild elephant struggling to survive after it was separated from its herd by floods and then washed across the border more than a month ago. Since then she has crossed around 100 kilometres of flooded terrain, living mostly on paddy (rice) crop, sugar canes and a limited amount of banana plants.

    Reply
  19. Vic

     /  August 4, 2016

    Perth, Western Australia.
    Hundreds of dead starfish have washed ashore on Perth’s southern beaches with tests underway to try to determine what killed them.

    Thousands of dead fish washed up in Cockburn Sound south of Perth in November last year.
    A toxic algal bloom was later identified as the likely cause of death.

    Reply
  20. One would imagine that decomposition in the thawing permafrost would itself be a process which generates heat, and a positive feedback?

    Reply
    • Almost certainly a local amplifier for permafrost melt as decomposition in one section would tend to warm and thaw nearby frozen sections.

      Reply
  21. Record-breaking year shows Earth’s climate is in real trouble

    “There is really only one word for this parade of shattered climate records: grim,” said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2099756-record-breaking-year-shows-earths-climate-is-in-real-trouble/

    Reply
  22. islandraider

     /  August 4, 2016

    I know comparing long term averages is more meaningful than daily readings, but holy moly:

    CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa:
    August 3, 2016 403.20 ppm
    August 3, 2015 396.81 ppm
    Year-on-year increase: 6.39 ppm?

    https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2

    Reply
    • I track these sats almost daily and Aug 3 is an outlier because Aug 3 2015 was flukey low average day. Actual average increase is probably in 3.0 to 3.5 ppm increase. Best to only track weekly sat averages because that mellows the flukey days.

      Reply
  23. – A visual display of quantitative information (Also a book title.).
    No surprise here but the SST flat line on the far right speaks for itself. Download jpg and view with an image program to see the fine print — far right = July, 2016.

    Brian Brettschneider ‏@Climatologist49 4h4 hours ago

    ICYMI, 26 of the last 27 months had the warmest global monthly sea surface temps on record (ERSST v.4).

    Reply
  24. Reply
  25. Reply
  26. FYI
    Köppen Climate Classifications

    Reply
  27. Reply
  28. I was lucky to have seen a Condor soaring high over Santa Barbara. There was no mistaking it with its long straight wings. It was like a black glider plane riding some air as it covered great distances with ease.The bird was likely from the Ojai/Sespe Wilderness area.

    Reply
  29. – Domestic cats, tall buildings — and wild birds:

    Reply
    • Ps: With a squirt gun, or spray bottle filled with water any cat can be trained (dissuaded) to leave birds alone.
      I’ve done it. It’s easy. If one takes the time to do it.
      Cat’s will do anything to stay dry. A few surprise spritzes of water when they are on the hunt is enough.
      If one takes the time.
      The problem here is with irresponsible cat ‘owners’.

      Reply
  30. Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  August 4, 2016

      Dt, painting fact: Trees planted close to homes cause mildew, mould and premature rot. Properly insulated houses work just as well and no new trees have to be cut to restore the prematurely rotten parts of the house. Not to mention chaffing from the movement caused by the wind moving the tree or limbs against the house. Trees do make good a/c units for sure, but I seen them all to often right up against the buildings. A stone house like the one in the picture is more likely to be some what immune to the above description but the roof components would not.

      Reply
  31. Griffin

     /  August 4, 2016

    Updated post from NOAA covering the mass die-off event at East Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. They have included a GIF that shows the reduced salinity inthe area at the time of the event.
    http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/jul16/noaa-scientists-report-mass-die-off-of-invertebrates-at-east-flower-garden-bank.html

    Reply
  32. Much of U.S. coastline vulnerable to hidden contamination

    “a new study provides the first high-resolution map of the freshwater flow along coastlines in the continental United States, revealing pollution “hot spots.” The study finds that 12% of the U.S. coastline is particularly vulnerable to contamination, including parts of the northern Gulf Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and the northern Atlantic coast, where high rates of seepage overlap areas of human development.”

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/08/much-us-coastline-vulnerable-hidden-contamination

    Reply
    • Griffin

       /  August 4, 2016

      Best follow-up to my above post ever.

      Reply
    • Griffin

       /  August 4, 2016

      After I read the article, I can say that this is something that I have seen some of (in some way) on Cape Cod. In areas where the sand is eroded away from the underlying rocks, it is common to see how the outflow that emerges from the land has carried excess nitrogen. It reveals itself by the coating of long stringy algae that is attached to the rocks. It is hard to describe but it is obvious that this algae is from pollution that is making it’s way out to sea at low tide. Given the abundance of septic tanks and fertilized lawns just back from the beach, it is not surprising.

      Reply
  33. Nothing new here, but well said by George Monbiot-
    The climate crisis is already here – but no one’s telling us

    Reply
  34. I wonder whether there is a risk that the pathogens thawed out from permafrost might be especially virulent?

    I have read in the past that pathogens tend to evolve toward parasitism, to avoid killing the host, that constitutes their habitat.

    That idea may be wrong. Scientists these days seem to be talking about optimal virulence – that pathogens evolve toward a state balancing aggression with destruction of the host:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimal_virulence

    The “Short Sighted Evolution” hypothesis is a little scary:

    “But as long as transmission continues despite the virulence, virulent pathogens will have the advantage. So, for example, virulence often increases within families, where transmission from one host to the next is likely, no matter how sick the host. Similarly, in crowded conditions such as refugee camps, virulence tends to increase over time since new hosts cannot escape the likelihood of infection.”

    One can imaging a crowded band of ice age humans or even Neanderthals, living in close quarters, breeding high virulence strains of pathogens, I guess.

    What are the probabilities of extremely virulent super bugs, so virulent that they killed all of their hosts, escaping from the melting permafrost?

    Should archaeological digs of human remains in thawing permafrost be banned or regulated?

    Aren’t those digs the most interesting ones, though, with the highest probability of uncovering new information about the past, because of the preservative nature of permafrost?

    Reply
    • Permafrost thaw threatens Arctic archeological sites, says professor

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/permafrost-thaw-threatens-arctic-archeological-sites-says-professor-1.3030303

      “Climate change is threatening archeological sites in N.W.T.’s Mackenzie Delta, says University of Toronto professor Max Friesen.

      He says thawing permafrost is endangering sites and artifacts dating back thousands of years.

      PHOTOS | Complete Inuvialuit driftwood house found in Mackenzie Delta

      “Instead of having the archaeological remains and the houses and whatnot being stable, they’re actually eroding out of the cliff face,” he said.

      “As you walk along the beach, you can actually see all the artifacts, animal bones, and even pieces of houses that are slumping down the slope and will eventually wash out into the ocean.”

      Friesen says researchers need to act quickly and prioritize which sites should be excavated before their contents are destroyed.”

      The probability of a dangerous pathogen coming from any one site are probably low. But what are the probabilities from all the permafrost sites, combined, especially when we deliberately go and dig through them? Archaeological digs often use volunteers, coming from all over the world, sometimes. What if they all fly home, and then it is discovered that they are carrying a virulent pathogen?

      Reply
  35. Then there’s the buried waste at US military camps in the Arctic that will resurface sooner or later:

    https://psmag.com/the-arctic-army-testing-site-that-climate-change-could-uncover-71447a6a22a3#.v8wzcyv8u

    Reply
  1. July Was the Hottest Month Ever Recorded; 2016 Set to Make 1998 Look Cold by Comparison | robertscribbler

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