Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Permafrost Peril

PostedDecember 19, 2019

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LEDE: As the federal government’s recently-released 2019 Arctic Report Card says…it’s not just melting ocean ice we need to worry about as our planet warms, but also massive amounts of Earth’s permafrost.

Randy Atkins: Permafrost is land that is frozen all year, much of it for thousands of years. But Vladimir Romanovsky, a researcher at the University of Alaska, has done long-term measurements documenting its continuous warming – and melting.

Vladimir Romanovsky: If everything will continue to change like it has been changing for the last thirty years, by mid-century we will see massive, massive thawing of permafrost.

Randy Atkins: Locked in the permafrost are ancient plants and animals – so, the problem is, melting would release huge amounts of carbon...likely speeding up climate change. Romanovsky says this ought to be a wakeup call.

Vladimir Romanovsky: We can regulate how much carbon we are producing into the atmosphere by burning fuels, using some alternative energy sources and so on. But if will permafrost start to thaw there is no regulation. It will happen, and we can’t do anything about it.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.