Thawing permafrost raises concerns for northern structures
WebPosted Wed Apr 18 13:54:21 2001
LONDON, U.K. - The thawing of permafrost in the far north due to global warming may have serious consequences for buildings and infrastructure, warns a new study.
Frederick Nelson, a climatic researcher from the University of Delaware in Newark, reports in the April 19 issue of Nature that as the thawing and disappearance of permafrost accelerates, it could damage buildings, highways and pipelines.
Not only is the melting permafrost affecting sea and lake ice, glaciers and vegetation, but it can also cause land depressions that can severely damage surface structures built assuming the permafrost would be
On slopes, thawing can lead to landslides, and thaws can lead to greater wave action along ice-rich shorelines causing severe erosion.
Using a computerized climate change model, Nelson identified areas at low, moderate and high risk of thaw-induced land slumps.
These areas include population centres such as Inuvik, as well as several North American highways and pipeline corridors.
A large natural-gas production complex in northwest Siberia is in a high-risk area, according to Nelson's predictions. So is the Bilibino nuclear power station, located in the Russian far east.
Nelson says that since permafrost changes occur gradually, it may be possible to predict and monitor thawing to reduce or even avoid catastrophic events.
Written by CBC News Online staff
FROM NOV. 16, 2000: Inuit witness climate changing
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