Instead of a few centimetres of thaw a year, several metres of soil can destabilize within days.
Permafrost in some areas of the Canadian Arctic is thawing so fast that it's gulping up the equipment left there to study it.
"The ground thaws and swallows it," said Merritt Turetsky, a University of Guelph biologist whose new research warns the rapid thaw could dramatically increase the amounts of greenhouse gases released from ancient plants and animals frozen within the tundra.
"We've put cameras in the ground, we've put temperature equipment in the ground, and it gets flooded. It often happens so fast we can't get out there and rescue it.