Wed. Feb 28th, 2024
Thawing Ice in Alaska Unveils Vulnerable Communities

As the frozen landscape of Alaska continues to warm, several communities are facing the risk of ground collapse. However, a recent study has shed light on this issue by utilizing satellite imagery to identify the most susceptible areas. Dr. Jaweed Nazary, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, led the research project and presented the team’s findings to NASA and the American Geophysical Union Conference.

Using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from the Sentinel-1 satellite, Nazary’s team was able to observe the gradual thawing beneath the surface of the earth. This process weakens the soil’s structural support and eventually leads to ground subsidence. The team discovered that these changes occur more rapidly along drainage networks.

The study focused on seasonal ground subsidence in the town of Unalakleet, Alaska, in collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. By providing maps of drainage networks, the team helped the community identify areas at greater risk of flooding and permafrost thaw. This information is crucial as communities consider potential relocation options.

The implications of this research extend beyond the immediate risks to these communities. As the ground collapses, significant amounts of methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases are released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the overall melting conditions. This highlights the urgency of addressing permafrost melt and its consequences not only for the ground but also for the environment.

Nazary’s experience with NASA’s DEVELOP National Program has only deepened his commitment to addressing environmental challenges. He now collaborates with Associate Professor Kathleen Trauth at Mizzou Engineering to study wetland establishment and characterization. Additionally, his newfound understanding of SAR technology has opened doors to a variety of potential applications after graduate school, including the possibility of working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

The study’s findings emphasize the need for continued research and proactive measures to mitigate the effects of permafrost melt. By leveraging advanced technology and collaboration, scientists and engineers can work towards protecting vulnerable communities and finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges worldwide.

FAQ’s:

1. What is the main issue discussed in the article?
The article discusses the risk of ground collapse in Alaska due to the warming of the frozen landscape.

2. How was satellite imagery used in the study?
Satellite imagery from the Sentinel-1 satellite was used to observe the gradual thawing beneath the surface of the earth and identify the most susceptible areas to ground collapse.

3. What process leads to ground subsidence?
The gradual thawing beneath the surface weakens the soil’s structural support, leading to ground subsidence.

4. What did the study discover about the changes in the soil?
The study found that the changes in the soil occur more rapidly along drainage networks.

5. What town in Alaska was the focus of the study?
The study focused on the town of Unalakleet, Alaska.

6. What information did the team provide to the community?
The team provided maps of drainage networks to help the community identify areas at greater risk of flooding and permafrost thaw.

7. Why is the information crucial for the communities?
The information is crucial for the communities as they consider potential relocation options due to the risks of flooding and permafrost thaw.

8. What are the implications of the research beyond the risks to the communities?
As the ground collapses, significant amounts of methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases are released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the overall melting conditions. This has implications for the environment as well.

9. What is Dr. Jaweed Nazary’s experience with NASA?
Dr. Jaweed Nazary has experience with NASA’s DEVELOP National Program.

10. What is Dr. Jaweed Nazary currently collaborating on?
Dr. Jaweed Nazary is currently collaborating with Associate Professor Kathleen Trauth at Mizzou Engineering to study wetland establishment and characterization.

Definitions:

Ground subsidence: The gradual sinking or settling of the Earth’s surface.

Permafrost: Permanently frozen ground that remains at or below 0°C (32°F) for at least two consecutive years.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR): A type of radar that uses the motion of an antenna to simulate a very large antenna, which improves resolution.

Suggested related links:

1. NASA
2. American Geophysical Union
3. University of Alaska Fairbanks
4. Mizzou Engineering
5. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab