Extreme Temperature Diary- Sunday December 4th, 2022/ Main Topic: Another Danger from the Climate Crisis- Zombie Viruses

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track global extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉

Main Topic: Another Danger from the Climate Crisis- Zombie Viruses

Dear Diary. It’s bad enough that this winter season the world is facing a “tripledemic,” which is a combination of a strain of bad influenza, COVID19, and RSV, a common virus that primarily effects children under 1 and older adults. Unfortunately, hospitals are filled with sick people this holiday season.

Climate change, as we know, is warming the planet and beginning to thaw out vast tracks of permafrost above the Arctic Circle. This process is releasing “zombie viruses” that the world has not seen for millions of years. Some might be virulent with no manner for people to fight them off due to lack of immunity that would have built up generation to generation due to exposure. Don’t forget that millions of Native Americans died once they were exposed to diseases brought to the new world by Europeans.

What if the next pandemic was caused by the release of a virus held long dormant beneath permafrost? That is this blog’s main subject of the day. Here is more from the Smithsonian:

Scientists Revive 48,500-Year-Old Virus, Setting World Record | Smart News| Smithsonian Magazine

Scientists Revive 48,500-Year-Old Virus, Setting World Record

As temperatures rise because of climate change, melting permafrost could cause dormant diseases to re-emerge, researchers warn

Margaret Osborne

Margaret Osborne

Daily Correspondent December 2, 2022

Over the past 43 years, the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the world.  Orchidpoet via Getty Images

As climate change accelerates the melting of ice in the Arctic, carbon dioxide emissions, habitat loss and rising sea levels aren’t the only threats humans face. Scientists have shown that ancient “zombie viruses” frozen for thousands of years can reawaken with rising temperatures. 

In a paper posted on the preprint server bioRxiv in November, scientists detail how they revived several of these viruses from the Siberian permafrost. The oldest is a 48,500-year-old pandoravirus, which set a world record for the age of a restored virus, co-author Jean-Michel Claverie, a genomicist at Aix-Marseille University in France, tells New Scientist’s Michael Le Page. 

All viruses the team uncovered infect only amoebas and therefore are not direct threats to public health. But they were still alive and able to replicate—an indication that dormant viruses dangerous to humans could also be revived from lurking in the ice. 

“If the authors are indeed isolating live viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that the even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive frozen for eons,” Eric Delwart, a molecular virologist from the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research, tells New Scientist.  

In fact, a deadly outbreak attributed to melting permafrost has already happened. In 2016, a heatwave in Russia thawed a 75-year-old frozen reindeer carcass infected with anthrax. As the disease spread, dozens of people were hospitalized, one child was killed and thousands of reindeer fell ill. Researchers are warning this may become more common. 

“The public health risk is coming from the accelerated release of previously frozen viruses combined with increased human exposure, since global warming is also making Arctic areas much more accessible to industrial development,” Claverie tells Newsweek’s Pandora Dewan. However, Delwart tells New Scientist it’s more likely that a zombie virus would circulate in wild or domestic animal populations than create a pandemic-scale outbreak in humans.

Claverie and his colleagues have previously uncovered zombie viruses. Back in 2014, they revived a 30,000-year-old pandoravirus. In their new paper, they describe 13 new viruses isolated from nine samples, including seven samples from permafrost.

Permafrost covers about 24 percent of landmass surfaces in the Northern Hemisphere, and it makes up almost half of the organic carbon stored in Earth’s soil, per the Arctic Institute. Just 3 degrees Celsius of warming could melt 30 to 85 percent of the top permafrost layers in the Arctic. Exactly which microbes this melting could resurface is unknown. Just a single gram of Arctic permafrost can contain hundreds to thousands of microbe groups

“We really don’t know what’s buried up there,” Birgitta Evengård, a microbiologist at Umeå University in Sweden, told NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff after the anthrax outbreak in 2016. “This is Pandora’s box.”

Rebecca Katz, a global health expert at Georgetown University who was not involved in the research, tells New Scientist the dangers should be taken seriously. 

“It makes sense to understand all of the potential pathways for emergence so we can be as prepared as possible,” she tells the publication. “Ancient viruses being released by the thawing permafrost is a very real threat.”

Margaret Osborne

Margaret Osborne |  | READ MORE

Margaret Osborne is a freelance journalist based in the southwestern U.S. Her work has appeared in the Sag Harbor Express and has aired on WSHU Public Radio.

Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:

Here is some more new November 2022 climatology:

Here is more climate and weather news from Sunday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *