Climate Change Causing Ground to Collapse in Cold Regions

The world may need to get ready for more megaslumps.

A slump occurs when permafrost, or frozen ground, thaws and collapses. Most are between two and 20 meters deep, according to Julian Murton, a geologist who studies slumps. But some are much bigger — slumps more than 25 meters deep are called megaslumps. One of these, the Batagaika crater in Siberia, was about 52 meters (170 feet) deep when Prof. Murton’s team measured it in May. According to Motherboard, at least seven other craters, one of them more than half a mile in diameter, have appeared in the area.

When the ground collapses, said Ted Schuur, an ecologist who studies permafrost thawing, “everything that was living there usually gets wiped out.” Animals like caribou can get stuck in the muddy bottom of a slump and die, said Prof. Murton. Roads, airstrips, pipelines or other manmade structures on top of a slump can be damaged too, he added.

Paul Duncan