Underwater Permafrost Is a Big, Gassy Wild Card for the Climate

The result is the worrisome image shown above—a massive sinkhole indicating that the subsea permafrost has thawed and collapsed. This sinkhole is a giant among dozens of pockmarks the researchers found on the seafloor. Scientists have already documented this violent phenomenon, called thermokarst, on land. Because permafrost is made of soil suspended in a matrix of frozen water, when it thaws the land shrinks, gouging massive holes across the Arctic landscape. And as these images of the seafloor show, it’s also happening underwater.

“I think it’s just absolutely remarkable that there are places on the seafloor where changes of this scale are happening at this rate,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium

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