YAMAL PENINSULA, SIBERIA, RUSSIA, 2018

Some of the lakes produced by permafrost melting on the Yamal peninsula, photographed from the Sentinel-2 satellite

© ESA / Eyevine

The news that the temperature in Siberia in June 2020 reached a record of 38°C sent a chill around the whole world, climate change-deniers excluded. The average temperature on the hottest day of the year generally hovers around 18°C, 20°C less than the recorded peak temperature. This fact confirms suspicions (also studied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that climate change is more rapid and devastating towards the poles because of the dynamics of the atmosphere which tend to transport heat energy on a wide scale via large convection cells.
High temperatures will cause ice on Earth to be increasingly vulnerable and precious. Subject of a special survey, it is being studied remotely with images from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite (like in this photo), which confirm the apparently unstoppable phenomenon of the recession or retreat of all ice on the Earth.
Even the permafrost, the layer of earth that remains frozen for at least 2 years, is at risk and with it the habitats linked to its existence. It is believed that in the future lack of stagnant water, the shifting of forest areas and their fauna because of changing climate, and increased decomposition of organic matter will contribute to accelerating climate change. An example is offered by the shifting of forests in zones previously covered by ice. White ice has an albedo, which is the ability of a surface to reflect solar radiation, nearing 100%, much higher than that of forest (10-15%). In this case, disappearance of ice and its replacement by forest would risk setting off a positive feedback driving climate change.

Filippo Rossato