Alaska National Parks Helping Inventory Permafrost To Monitor Climate Change

In Alaska, where about 80 percent of the landscape has been identified as being permafrost, National Park Service scientists are working with several partners to inventory those lands to better monitor climate-change impacts.

As the climate warms, permafrost -- permanently frozen ground -- is expected to melt and alter the landscape, notes an article in the Park Service's latest Climate Change Response Program News. To follow this change, the Park Service has provided funds to support several projects intended to provide a "more complete understanding of current permafrost conditions in Alaska’s national parks and to predict future conditions."

The first project, which is being conducting with partners at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, uses existing Park Service soils and landcover inventory data and weather data as inputs to develop maps of current permafrost conditions and model future conditions in all parks. This project will produce maps of current and likely future permafrost conditions for all parks in the Arctic and Central Alaska Networks, the newsletter notes.

Phase one of the project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

To expand upon the work previously done in the Arctic Network parks, two additional projects were funded in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Permafrost related features were inventoried and mapped in specific areas within the park units.

The projects in Yukon-Charley and Wrangell-St. Elias focus on areas of importance to the parks and will serve as management tools for future actions.