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UAF scientists go to the international permafrost conference

UAF scientists go to the international permafrost conference
UAF scientists go to the international permafrost conference


About 20 University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists will present research at the quadrennial International Conference on Permafrost, which opens Sunday in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Most of the UAF presenters are from the Geophysical Institute, which has a group of faculty and student researchers on Snow, Ice and Permafrost. Scientists from UAF's Arctic Biology Institute, International Arctic Research Center, Northern Engineering Institute and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will also show their research.

Photo by Simon Zwieback
The light gray ice comes from the top of a small Canadian melt layer.

The week-long conference is organized by Canadian Permafrost Association.

Given the importance of permafrost and its role in the Earth's climate, unfortunately, there are not many conferences devoted to permafrost in the world, said Dmitry Nicolsky, associate professor of the UAF Geophysical Institute.

Given the time span of a few days, ICOP offers many opportunities to meet with our colleagues from different countries to gain insight into permafrost health on a planetary scale, he said.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the various categories of permanent, continuous, intermittent, and sporadic frost underlie approximately 25% of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemispheres. Exposed land is land that is not covered by glaciers.

More than a dozen Geophysical Institute scientists will present work on a variety of permafrost topics, including the following:

Integrating remote sensing and field observations to map permafrost at McGrath, Interior Alaska, by Associate Research Professor Alexander Kholodov.

Assessment of permafrost changes in the 21st century in the Alaskan Arctic, by Nicolsky.

Assessing Permafrost Degradation Rates and Their Impact on Ecosystems Across Alaska, by Research Associate Professor Sergey Marchenko.

Monitoring Coastal Change and Permafrost Dynamics in Three Arctic Communities, by Research Assistant Professor Louise Farquharson.

Permafrost tunnel
UAF photo by Leif Van Cise
Students explore the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory tunnel in Fox, Alaska. Several University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists use the tunnel for research projects.

Christopher Burn, president of International Permafrost Associationsaid it is important for northerners to understand the implications of continued climate warming.

Many countries in the world will be affected by sea level rise as the Greenland ice sheet melts and parts of Antarctica do the same, said Burn, a geography professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. Fewer will have a problem with permafrost, but for northerners and people living in high mountain regions, the consequences are already visible and will only continue in one direction.

Burn said Earth's permafrost regions will soon become net sources of greenhouse gases as they switch from being carbon sinks.

Maintaining infrastructure will be difficult as precipitation and snowmelt regimes are magnified with greater amounts of moisture in the atmosphere, Burn said. And pollutants such as mercury that have been frozen in the ground for years will be released as permafrost melts.

Guy Dor, president of the Canadian Permafrost Association, said the conference is the perfect opportunity for attendees to update on permafrost science, engineering and management.

Community leaders are trying to better understand and manage the risks associated with permafrost degradation, he said. Scientists are trying to develop a better understanding of the factors that contribute to its degradation and the impact of degrading permafrost.

And engineers are trying to better understand the complex interaction between permafrost and structures and develop low-impact construction practices and sustainable solutions for degrading foundations, he said.

of International Conference on Permafrost is held every four years, although this will be the first since the 2016 conference in Potsdam, Germany. The 2020 conference in China was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Dmitry Nicolsky, [email protected]





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