USA Today reports:
USA TODAY traveled to the Fairbanks area, where workers were busy insulating thaw-damaged roads this summer amid a record number of 80-degree (or hotter) days, as the eighth stop in a year-long series to explore how climate change is changing lives.
The pace of permafrost thawing is “accelerating,” says Vladimir Romanovsky, who runs the University of Alaska’s Permafrost Laboratory in Fairbanks. He expects widespread degradation will start in a decade or two. By mid-century, his models suggest, permafrost could thaw in at least a third of Alaska and by 2100, in two-thirds of the state.
“This rapid thawing is unprecedented” and is largely due to fossil-fuel emissions, says Kevin Schaefer of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. He says it’s already emitting its own heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane, but the amount will skyrocket in the next 20 to 30 years. “Once the emissions start, they can’t be turned off”…
Many Alaskans are skeptical about the climate link. “Permafrost has been thawing since the last Ice Age,” says Jeff Curley, an engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation, saying its amount depends on naturally-occurring variability. He notes the state’s temperatures have fluctuated every 30 or so years.