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Sinkholes as big as a skyscraper and as wide as a city street open up in the Arctic seafloor

Repeated surveys with MBARI’s mapping AUVs revealed dramatic changes to seafloor bathymetry from the Arctic shelf edge in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. This sinkhole developed in just nine years. (Image credit: Eve Lundsten © 2022 MBARI)

Giant “sinkholes” — one of which could devour an entire city block holding six-story buildings — are appearing along the Arctic seafloor, as submerged permafrost thaws and disturbs the area, scientists have discovered.

But even though human-caused climate change is increasing the average temperatures in the Arctic, the thawing permafrost that’s creating these sinkholes seems to have a different culprit — heated, slowly moving groundwater systems. 

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