It may seem like all the recent warm weather is a blessing, given the harsh winter that just passed, but a new study is showing that the heat and humidity could cause some severe problems in parts of Russia.
According to a United Nations Environment Program report, almost a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered with permafrost.
Permafrost is soil that has a below-zero temperature, and is therefore completely frozen. Recent studies are showing that permafrost thaw is increasing at a rapid rate, leading to several concerns for Russia’s urban infrastructure.
Not only does permafrost release methane and carbon dioxide as it thaws, but it begins to cause a shift in the foundation of buildings within a city. The problem with this is that the ground begins to soften and move beneath the surface of large structures, and these buildings are not designed to handle these shifts.
How a Water Thawing Can Affect Your Home
Foundation shifts are known to cause potentially serious water damage. Even with a basement sump pump, a battery backup sump pump, a French drain system, or interior basement waterproofing, water can still seep in through cracks in the foundation. Without immediate concrete foundation repair, the shifted building could face increasing devastation.
In addition, Gunnar Bjørnnson, a student from Norway who is studying the effect of rapid permafrost thaw, explained that water damage is not the only problem.
“When you have an unstable foundation that starts to crack, it can break and destroy pipelines, sanitation, sewage, water access. It can cause a lot of complications, repair costs, and maintenance costs,” he said.
A report by Barents Observer shows that concrete foundation repair can cost from $5,000 to $7,000 for major issues, and about $2,000 for some minor cracks. But for entire cities in Russia, this could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in concrete foundation repair.
This month, George Washington University, Moscow State University, and the Barents Institute joined forces to work on a project that analyzes these trends. Students from these institutions found that permafrost thaw is also impacting Arctic climates in Canada and Alaska.
Consequently, even if building owners remove excess ice, snow, or water from around a foundation, there is no guarantee that permafrost won’t affect the concrete and soil surrounding the structure.
Ultimately, the aim of these studies is to ensure that builders are able to work with the rapidly evolving soil.
“We look at engineering aspects, but we don’t tell an engineer how to build a house. Instead, we can teach them what are the methods to adapt this city, region, or even a particular building to natural and climatic conditions as they change,” said Dmitry Streletskiy, a field school instructor. “It helps to know how to consider climate and local natural conditions when they build on permafrost.”