GEOSCAN Search Results: Fastlink


TitleExecutive summary
SourceCoastal and offshore permafrost rapid response assessment; by GRID-Arendal; 2020 p. 1 Open Access logo Open Access
LinksOnline - En ligne
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200661
PublisherUnited Nations Environment Program
DocumentWeb site
Mediaon-line; digital
RelatedThis publication is related to the following publications
File formathtml; pdf
ProvinceNorthern offshore region; Northwest Territories; Yukon
NTS97; 98; 107; 117
AreaBanks Island; Mackenzie River; Beaufort Sea; Alaska; Canada; United States of America; Russian Federation
Lat/Long WENS-170.0000 -120.0000 80.0000 68.0000
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; Nature and Environment; Science and Technology; permafrost; coastal environment; coastal studies; coastal management; coastal erosion; ice thicknesses; cumulative effects; Climate change
ProgramPublic Safety Geoscience Plate Boundary Earthquakes
ProgramEnvironmental Geoscience Arctic impacts
ProgramClimate Change Geoscience Coastal Infrastructure
Released2020 10 13
Permafrost is sediment or bedrock that has remained below 0°C for more than two years. The physical properties of permafrost can vary greatly depending on the temperature state, host sediment type and the proportions of ground ice, liquid water and methane. The permafrost found along the Arctic coast of western North America and Siberia extends deep beneath the land and offshore continental shelf areas and is dominated by unconsolidated ice-rich sediments rather than bedrock. The combination of rising sea levels and the effects of ongoing global climate change is causing marked changes in these areas as frozen landscapes warm and thaw. These changes, which include rapidly eroding coastlines, ground subsidence, landslides, and the alteration of ground and surface water dynamics (lakes, streams and surface seepage) are affecting infrastructure and the people living along the Arctic coast.

Permafrost also contains vast amounts of mercury and other heavy metals that have built up over millennia. Thawing can release these toxic substances into the food chain, which is a major concern for human health. In addition, municipal and industrial waste has historically been stored in stable permafrost, but with warming, the contaminants in landfills, sewage lagoons, and drilling waste sumps can leak into the surrounding environment. The thawing and destabilization of permafrost also releases greenhouse gases. Large amounts of methane are trapped at depth in both offshore and onshore permafrost. This methane can also occur in a solid form known as gas hydrate. As the permafrost warms or thaws, stored methane can find its way into the atmosphere. Frozen soils also contain organic matter which can release methane and carbon dioxide as microbial activity increases in the warming permafrost. The atmospheric release of greenhouse gases can result in a positive climate feedback loop.
This Rapid Response Assessment (RRA) aims to raise awareness about the importance of coastal and offshore permafrost and to identify urgent geoscience research needs. The RRA focuses primarily on areas of western North America where there is extensive offshore permafrost and retreating coastal areas. However, the findings extend to other parts of the Arctic. Along with the science, this assessment considers the perspectives of Arctic peoples on the coastal permafrost issues that they struggle with on a daily basis and the concerns that they have for the future. Discussions with the residents of communities in the western Canadian Arctic have been influential in focusing this assessment.

For decades, Arctic peoples have been concerned about the profound changes occurring, now threatening to make many coastal towns and villages unliveable. In conjunction with governments, local communities are looking for scientific and engineering solutions to the eroding shorelines and land subsidence. However, dealing effectively with the changes to the land and damage to infrastructure requires far more information than is currently available. Our lack of understanding of permafrost and associated geological processes is hampering the development of policies and actions to effectively address the problems. There is an urgent need for community and scientific collaboration to co-design additional monitoring, testing and modelling studies. This incorporation of local knowledge, as well as the involvement of indigenous youth in all aspects of ongoing work, is essential for the development of successful mitigation strategies to protect the people and environment of the north.

Date modified: