Twelvemile Lake permafrost
June 11, 2014

Researchers Document New Permafrost Around Alaskan Lake, But Will It Last

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Most studies on Arctic permafrost are harbingers of doom. As the sea ice melts, the permafrost is being affected, and releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane. These gases will accelerate the process of global warming, creating a vicious cycle.

A new study from the US Geological Survey and McGill University, published in Geophysical Research Letters, has revealed a surprise in permafrost research.

Rather than more news of thawing, Martin Briggs from the U.S. Geological Survey and Prof. Jeffrey McKenzie from McGill’s Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science have found new permafrost forming around Twelvemile Lake in Alaska's interior. Even though this is encouraging news, the research team has concluded that this new permafrost will not last beyond the end of this century at the present rate of climate change.

[ Watch the Video: What is the Arctic? ]

Over the past three decades, climate change and thawing permafrost have caused the waters of Twelvemile Lake to recede at an alarming rate — causing it to earn the nickname of "the disappearing lake." Bands of willow shrubs have grown in the newly exposed lake shores, providing extra shade for the area. This shade has cooled and dried the surrounding soil, allowing new permafrost to form and expand in this area.

Finding new permafrost was initially exciting for the scientists. Careful analysis of the new permafrost's thickness, combined with projections for the effects of continuing climate change and the estimated rise in Arctic temperature of approximately 5 degrees Fahrenheit, made it clear that the new permafrost doesn't have the staying power to last beyond the end of the century.