Permafrost

As you know, the permafrost is melting due to global warming, and this is releasing greenhouse gasses which cause global warming. What you may not know is that we could not have had this conversation even a century ago because science has only recently recognized permafrost (it was not clearly defined and known of in the early 20th century). John McKay, an expert on hairy elephants and related things, has written up a description of what may be the first scientific description of permafrost, from a century or more prior to it’s incorporation into the scientific conversation as a reasonably well understood concept, by a botanist working a bit out of his field of expertise in 1806. Check out: An Early Description of Permafrost at Mammoth Tales.

Comments

  1. #1 Jim Thomerson
    February 3, 2013

    If I remember correctly, foundations for the Alaska Pipeline are driven into permafrost and designed not to melt the permafrost. What will thawing permafrost do to the integrity of the Alaska Pipeline, and to any other structures built on the assumption of permafrost forever?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2013

    ooops. I’ll check.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    February 4, 2013

    See page 33 of this PDF supplied to me by a colleague who writes http://getenergysmartnow.com/:

    http://www.arctic.gov/publications/permafrost.pdf

    I propose the following fortune cookie:

    “Those who use ice as their foundation may find themselves in deep water.”

  4. #4 Jon Nelson
    Redmond, WA
    February 9, 2013

    Yes, it does not sound good for the pipeline according to that report. But I did not see on pages 32-34 anything about sinking into water, as implied by your fortune cookie. One set of pilings was reported to have tilted 7 degrees. So, either one piling sunk or the other rose. I mention the possibility of rising because thawing could introduce the action of frost heave.

    Jon

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