Thousands of years ago, microbes got trapped in frozen soil called permafrost. Climate change has caused the permafrost to thaw, awakening these microscopic beasts from their 40-thousand year slumber. Scientists have already discovered many viruses and bacteria laying dormant. Some of these are strains we’ve never seen before. These unearthed viruses and bacteria could lead to future pandemics because our immune systems has not been exposed to them. Many of these microbes are also antibiotic resistant, meaning that current treatments would not be effective.
After escaping the melted permafrost, these bacteria and viruses can enter the environment through waterways – after which they can more easily multiply and spread throughout the world. Permafrost covers 24% of all land in the northern hemisphere (including 85% of Alaska!), and as this frozen landscape continues to melt away, the threat of infection grows.