December 14, 2004

Thawing Permafrost

When climate scientists were predicting outcomes that would arise from global warming, one serious problem was what would happen when the permafrost melted. As this paper written in January 2001 says, the results of melting permafrost would cause:

Sinking buildings, roller-coaster roads, and boreal forest changing to wetlands could be realities of the near future if current warming persists."Thawing permafrost will bring lots of problems," [Romanovsky] said.

It didn't take long for the effects of permafrost melting to show up in Alaska. This week's Living On Earth had a segment on the loss of an Inuit village just south of the Artic Circle from the warming temperatures. The people of Shishmaref are watching their village be destroyed by the warming weather and now have to leave their village where they've lived for generations.

As with all great radio, listening to the story of this village was sobering.

SPITZER: Tony Weyiouanna is taking a look at what’s changed since the last time he toured Shishmaref’s coast. In front of the bluffs sit crumbled piles of sand. Further out into the shallows, the remnants of several failed seawalls are decaying.

Shishmaref is made entirely of fine sand and permafrost. As the waves erode the bluffs, the permafrost emerges, melts, and collapses the cliffs above it. Whole sections of beachfront here can fail catastrophically.

WEYIOUANNA: The National Guard armory that’s out by the airport, the two buildings, one was here, and one was here, right where we’re standing.

Here the story of global warming becomes real. It is no longer just a theory. How do you think we humans will adjust to the coming disruptive changes?

Update: Here's a good article about permafrost from Norway.

Posted by Mary at December 14, 2004 08:08 AM | Environment | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |

Wow...this is fascinating info. Global warming is here. I will read the Norwegian article later.

Posted by: Debi at December 14, 2004 11:49 AM

Clearly, we're going to have to come up with another word for 'permafrost.'

Posted by: natasha at December 17, 2004 01:40 AM