60 Minutes swarmed by mosquitoes... in Siberia?

The "60 Minutes" team went above the Arctic Circle to report a story on permafrost and climate change. Then the pesky bugs came out

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In Soviet gulags, guards used to use mosquitoes to torture prisoners. During a recent summer reporting trip to Siberia, a 60 Minutes team found out why.

"They're everywhere," producer Henry Schuster told 60 Minutes Overtime. "It's incredibly, intensely uncomfortable."

The "60 Minutes" team was in Siberia to report on a new front in combating climate change. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports this week, a Russian geophysicist is warning that frozen soil, called permafrost, contains enough greenhouse gas itself to threaten the climate if it ever melts.

But it is melting, thanks to climate change. The warming temperatures are also causing more mosquitoes in Siberia and throughout the Arctic. Research shows warming above the Arctic Circle causes the pesky critters to emerge earlier, grow faster, and survive longer.

As a precaution, the producers and camera crew covered themselves in protective clothing, including a net over their faces, but Pelley could not wear it while filming. It meant that a key scene in his story this week almost never happened. As geophysicist Sergey Zimov dug up permafrost, a blizzard of mosquitoes swarmed, unceasing.

But after four decades of research in Siberian summers, Zimov has adapted to his surroundings.

"Sergey's fueled by cigarettes and vodka and Russian indifference, and he's just not affected by this at all," Schuster said. "And Scott is dying out there. They were out in full force."

Schuster has a tip for anyone planning a trip in the Arctic in the summer: Be prepared for the bugs.

The video above was originally published on March 29, 2019 and produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.