A previously underestimated risk lurks in the frozen soil of the Arctic. When the ground thaws and becomes unstable in response to climate change, it can lead to the collapse of industrial infrastructure, and in turn to the increased release of pollutants. Moreover, contaminations already present will be able to more easily spread throughout ecosystems. According to new findings, there are at least 13,000 to 20,000 contaminated sites in the Arctic that could pose a serious risk in the future.
The community of Aklavik, N.W.T., persevered when devastating floods led the government to attempt to relocate it. Now it faces another existential crisis as climate change thaws the permafrost, forever changing the community’s landscape and wildlife.
Increase in sediments such as iron could change quality of water sources for local communities such as Kobuk and Kivalina. The impact on animals and plants are unknown and researchers are aware of potential changes in the food web in the future.
Melting permafrost and severe erosion have plagued the community for decades. The most recent storm brought waves so fierce, the water claimed roughly half of the 80 or so remaining feet of land that stands between the back end of the school and the edge of the Ningliq river.
Permafrost is ground that stays frozen year round; the permafrost in interior Alaska also has massive wedges of actual ice locked within the frozen ground. When that ice melts, the ground surface collapses and forms a sinkhole that can fill with water. Thus, a thermokarst lake is born. At first glance, Big Trail looks like any lake. But look closer and there's something disturbing the surface: bubbles.
The erosion of the Old Russian Cemetery from the impacts of the storm Merbokis also an unfinished process. The earth is actively moving, falling onto the beach bit by bit and sometimes in large chunks every day, to reach a state of stabilization after the storm.
In Utqiaġvik, where the coast is eroding at some of the fastest rates in the nation, storms, flooding and thawing permafrost damage houses, roads and cultural sites. Ice forms later each year and storms are becoming longer and more severe.
"The event occurred on June 29th, on our native allotment near Kotzebue (Illivak). We left home in the morning and when we came back around 8:00 PM in the evening the whole lake had drained! It looked like it was blown up with dynamite."
On June 21, 2022, when miners working on Eureka Creek in the Klondike gold fields within Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory made an astonishing discovery.There, covered over by permafrost, they found the near-perfect mummified remains of a baby woolly mammoth.
What can be done to avoid man-made accidents and emergencies? According to Vostokgosplan experts, the use of special thermal stabilizers will help ensure the stability of the Arctic infrastructure.
A fisherman was coming home from fishing last night and noticed (what he thought was) a coffin sticking out of the old gravesite above one of the markers I used to measure erosion with last summer. It turned out to not be a coffin, but rather an old air duct or metal meat trailer.