Permafrost Settlement Caused by Climate Warming in Alaska and the Estimation of its Damage Costs for Public Infrastructure

Project Overview

Dates: August 2009—July 2012

Status: 
Completed

Primary Scientists: 

Eunkyoung Hong, ACCAP Graduate Student
Sarah Trainor, ACCAP
Steve Colt, Institute of Social and Economic Research, UAA
John Walsh, ACCAP
Robert Perkins, UAF

Partners: 

University of Alaska Fairbanks Resiliance and Adaptation Program

Funding: 

ACCAP
UAF Resiliance and Adaptation Program

Photo courtesy of Ned Rozell
Photo courtesy of Dan White

Former ACCAP PhD student Eunkyoung Hong's dissertation focused on the estimation of additional costs caused by climate change in the field of public infrastructure. 

Climate models indicate that the changes in the northern latitudes will be serious and accelerated. Climate warming may impact structures in the northern latitudes through permafrost settlement affecting the performance of infrastructure and increasing costs for maintenance.

Chapter 1 describes the motivation for the research. Chapter 2 addresses the permafrost settlement hazard in Alaska. A Permafrost Settlement Hazard Index was created, which considered anticipated climate warming and ecological characteristics that regulate permafrost settlement. Findings show that the discontinuous permafrost region is at more risk due to permafrost settlement than other regions of Alaska and that areas with high settlement hazard have higher road maintenance costs. Chapter 3 is an estimate of damage cost caused by permafrost settlement related to climate warming in the field of public infrastructure. Results show that climate warming may add $106 million as effective damage costs due to reduced service life of public infrastructure in Alaska. A case study of Alaska roads for discontinuous permafrost regions is presented in Chapter 4. Alternative construction methods were identified as potential adaptation measures. The cost effectiveness of each adaptation method was compared. Chapter 5 summarizes the research and indicates possibilities for future research directions.