Foreseeing permafrost thaw by 2060 in Alaska

“The closer to the ocean, it seems like, the stronger the warming signal in the Arctic right now,” Vladimir Romanovsky told Frontier Scientists, and a warming Arctic leads to warming permafrost. Romanovsky, professor of Geophysics, heads the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Alaska is edged by oceans on three sides. […]

The future for thawing permafrost on Alaska’s North Slope

Permafrost, subsurface soil that remains frozen throughout the year, can be found on Alaska’s North Slope and in places across the Arctic. “The temperature of permafrost is rapidly changing,” said Vladimir Romanovsky, Geophysics professor and head of the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. In the very near past when Vladimir […]

The greatest story of man and permafrost

In 1973, Elden Johnson was a young engineer with a job working on one of the most ambitious and uncertain projects in the world — an 800-mile steel pipeline that carried warm oil over frozen ground. Thirty-five years later, Johnson looked back at what he called “the greatest story ever told of man’s interaction with […]

Call to act on climate at Anchorage GLACIER conference

It’s impressive when President Obama visits your home base— Anchorage. And you know something important is happening when two cabinet members, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, top level white house officials, foreign dignitaries, Alaskan Republican senators, and rural Alaskan officials all converge. It’s CLIMATE CHANGE. The Department of […]

Ice and fire and permafrost

May 20 2015, 9pm in Alaska, tune in to KAKM Science Wednesdays, Alaska Public Media, for Frontier Scientists’ CHANGING PERMAFROST. Under the tundra thawing Permafrost forms thermokarst features, causing sinkholes and landslides. Shifting climate conditions release greenhouse gases locked beneath the tundra in previously frozen ground. The episode features University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute […]

water sample science Sagavanirktok River Alaska

Testing Alaska’s Sagavanirktok and Kuparuk rivers

“We are interested in studying what happens to this material as it makes its way to the ocean… The transformations that it undergoes.” Jason Dobkowski, lab manager in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, explained his work as he crouched on treacherous muddy ground to collect water at a […]

Dobkowski sampling brown water

Tea water in Arctic rivers– carbon pathways

At the turn of the season as snow and ice melt, Alaska’s waterways open up. “This is the highest this river will be this season,” Jason Dobkowski said. “Here is this giant flush of particulate and nutrients that flow through the river. So we are trying to make sure we sample at this big flush […]

Squirrels’ role in climate change puzzle

Alaska’s North Slope is home to Arctic ground squirrels. Near the Atigun River their interlaced burrow network takes advantage of sandy soil. The burrows are so interconnected and the entrances so myriad that the scientists working there to decode Arctic ground squirrel mysteries carry a map denoting burrow entrance numbers so they can be certain […]

Alaska research insects vacuuming

Mosquito netting, vacuum power, and bug science

Vacuuming at home isn’t too edifying. How about vacuuming the Alaska tundra to snag a bag full of bugs? That’s an entirely different story. Ashley Asmus, graduate research assistant at the University of Texas at Arlington, is using a huge reverse leaf blower to collect the bugs she’ll study.

white-crowned sparrow Alaska

Thousands of kilometers north – migratory birds and a shifting world

The Arctic is blanketed in snow for 9 to 10 months of the year. Then in May or June, with the Sun shining long overhead, snow melt comes sudden. Mathew Sturm, professor of Geophysics, University of Alaska, Geophysics Institute says the world of the Arctic can go from “White to dark in a space of […]

The ground changing under our feet – Thermokarsts

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Jason Dobkowski stands on the shores of Wolverine Lake. His research site is located in the North Slope of Alaska, nestled near the remote foothills of the Brooks Range. “I’m here studying permafrost thaw slump which is depositing silt and material into the lake behind me. And that material, […]

Alaskan tundra plants

Nitrogen’s intense impact

Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements on Earth; nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78% of Earth’s atmosphere. Nitrogen is also an essential element for all organisms. In order to live and grow, plants and animals need the hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) which compose water, as well as carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and […]

cross country skiing Alaska

Trapped in a cracked snow globe

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Snowball fights. Snow angels and lovely ice sculptures. You can truck across it or ski through it. Snow might be a heavy reality you shovel every day, or a glittering crystalline landscape far away. Or both. Whatever snow means to you, it means something much more complex to the […]

helicopter wildfire burn plant recovery

Beating the burn: tundra recovery after the 2007 Anaktuvuk River fire

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – “The same kind of vegetation that was there before the fire are the same ones we’re seeing in the recovery. Some plants though, like lichens, take longer.” The information comes from Syndonia Bret-Harte, a researcher studying the fire scar left after 2007’s Anaktuvuk River fire near Alaska’s Brooks Range. […]

Gordon Dam Australia

New insights: global warming drivers in the 20th century and beyond

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists Researchers have combed through the last 2,000 years of climate records. Their assessment affirms that a persistent long-term cooling trend concluded in the late 19th century, reversed by global warming. The study was performed by members of the “2K Network” of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP) Past Global Changes […]

Plants march north

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists The face of the Arctic is changing as plant growth flourishes further north than before. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.” This change accompanies […]

Permafrost scientist snowmachining from Alaska to Atlantic

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Kenji Yoshikawa will soon sleep on brilliant, blue-white landscape that has never felt the imprint of his boots. Beginning on spring equinox, the permafrost scientist and a partner will attempt to drive snowmachines from Prudhoe Bay to Canada’s Baffin Island. While traveling a distance equal to Seattle to Tokyo to […]

permafrost Atlas of the Cryosphere map (NSIDC) (NASA)

Carbon in permafrost and tomorrow’s atmosphere

Carbon is the building block of life. Our knowledge of current climate change, however, has us counting how much carbon enters the atmosphere. We burn fossil fuels, adding anthropogenic (human-caused) carbon dioxide to the air. Meanwhile, natural processes also add carbon to the air. We know that methane can arise from warming lakes and oceans. Methane traps […]

Bison Bob steppe bison skull

Bison Bob a big discovery on the North Slope

As she scraped cold dirt from the remains of an extinct bison, Pam Groves wrinkled her nose at a rotten-egg smell wafting from gristle that still clung to the animal’s bones. She lifted her head to scan the horizon, wary of bears that might be attracted to the flesh of a creature that gasped its […]

Arctic snow cover low

Dramatic report card for the Arctic in 2012

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Northern sea ice is at its lowest extent since we’ve been able to see it from satellites. Greenland experienced its warmest summer in 170 years. Eight of 10 permafrost-monitoring sites in northern Alaska recorded their highest temperatures; the other two tied record highs. 2012 was a year of “astounding” change for much […]

A Portal to Toolik Field Station

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists We know that the Arctic holds unique climate conditions and a complex carbon balance. Tundra fires and thawing permafrost release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while unique ocean currents and cold waters prompt higher levels of ocean acidification. Methane emerges from sea and soil. The Arctic sea ice cover shrinks to increasingly startling extents. Plant life […]

Arctic lakes getting a closer look

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Alaska has more than that in the great expanse of flatlands north of the Brooks Range. These ubiquitous far-north bodies of water — most of them formed by the disappearance of ancient, buried ice that dimples the landscape as it thaws — […]

Thermokarst Project

Survey: Abrupt permafrost thaw increases climate threat

Marie Gilbert for UAF Cornerstone – As the Arctic warms, greenhouse gases will be released from thawing permafrost faster and at significantly higher levels than previous estimates, according to survey results from 41 international scientists published in the Nov. 30 issue of the journal Nature. Permafrost thaw will release approximately the same amount of carbon […]

Geologic methane seeping from thawing cryosphere

Geologic methane is seeping through the edges of thawing permafrost and receding glaciers in Alaska and Greenland, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience. University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Katey Walter Anthony led the study, which, for the first time, documents the widespread occurrence of these terrestrial sources of geologic methane […]

Sunken Treasure under Lake El’gygytgyn

Deep under a frozen lake in Siberia, Russia, lies a researcher’s gold: an astounding record of past climates preserved in untouched layers of lake bed sediment. In 2009 an international team of scientists headed to Lake El’gygytgyn (pronounced El’geegitgin). They perched specialized drilling equipment atop the icy lake surface and drilled down. At the bottom […]

Far-north permafrost cliff is one of a kind

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – In northern Alaska, an amphitheater of frozen ground is thawing where a northern river is cutting it, exposing walls of ice. The feature, known by scientists as “yedoma,” is the largest of its kind yet found in Alaska. Jim Helmericks, who lives with his wife Teena on the mouth of the […]

New videos about Permafrost, a blog about the Dog Mushing Weather Dance, and a video description of FLOPs

January 31, 2012– Permafrost is an underground phenomena but three new videos, with beautiful footage and photos, allow you to see permafrost with your own eyes. University of Alaska-Fairbanks scientists Vladimir Romanovsky, Sergey Marchenko, and Ronald Daanen describe permafrost in videos “It’s a Bore Hole”, “The Permafrost Tilted House” and “Permafrost Patterns”. We should get […]

Flowing tongues of rock, ice and dirt

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – A few years ago, Ronald Daanen was driving north of Coldfoot on the Dalton Highway, looking for drunken trees. He pulled over when he saw some tipsy spruce on a hillside. The University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist thought the tilted trees would be a classic sign of thawing permafrost, ground […]

Thermal State of Permafrost in North America: A Contribution to the International Polar Year

The permafrost monitoring network in the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere was enhanced during the International Polar Year (IPY), and new information on permafrost thermal state was collected for regions where there was little available. This augmented monitoring network is an important legacy of the IPY, as is the updated baseline of current permafrost […]

The preservation of archaeological bone

A midden is basically a prehistoric trash dump. After processing animals for consumption, the unusable remains were often discarded in an area of the camp where people were not working and sleeping. Normally in the harsh arctic environment, bones on the surface waste away rather quickly. At Matcharak Lake, however, conditions were just right to […]