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Arctic communities on slippery slopes

Selawik Slump, Alaska, which is up to 8 stories deep and 9 square acres wide, according to the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge (photo by Yuri Gorokhovich).

The consequences of climate change on society are most pronounced in regions where temperature changes in the range of a few degrees can cause major disruptions. A prime example is the Arctic, where many communities and ecosystems are underlain by permafrost, ground that has been frozen for more than two consecutive years. Permafrost provides the physical foundation of the soil and sensitively affects surface micro-topography, soil hydrology and ecosystem balance. Thawing of permafrost will hence alter surface and subsurface processes in fundamental ways that are currently difficult to anticipate but will have an immediate impact on people’s lives.The goal of this project is to advance our process-based understanding of the evolving hazards associated with permafrost thawing and leverage this knowledge to inform climate-change adaptation.