A fortnight camping on the muddy, mosquito-ridden banks of the Kolyma River in Russia may not sound like the most glamorous of work trips. But it’s a sacrifice virologist Jean-Michel Claverie was willing to make to uncover the truth about zombie viruses — yet another risk that climate change poses to public health.

His discoveries shine a light on a grim reality of global warming as it thaws ground that had been frozen for millenniums. Claverie, 73, has spent over a decade studying "giant” viruses, including ones nearly 50,000 years old found deep within layers of Siberian permafrost.

With the planet already 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than preindustrial times, scientists are predicting the Arctic could be ice-free in summers by the 2030s. Concerns the hotter climate will release trapped greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere as the region’s permafrost melts have been well-documented, but dormant pathogens are a lesser explored danger.