In Alaska, a low-tech solution helps the ground stay cold enough, for now

The Wall Street Journal; December 7, 2009

FAIRBANKS, Alaska—While the world debates the causes of climate change and what, if anything, to do about it, Alaskans are busy dealing with its consequences.

Permafrost, the frozen ground that lies just beneath the surface in most of the state, has become less stable in many areas, thanks in part to higher average air temperatures. It has begun to thaw in the warmer months and refreeze in the winter, causing shifts that wreak havoc on the structural integrity of the pipelines, railways, roads and buildings that sit on top of it.

"If we're going to build on frozen ground, we want to keep it frozen," says Dan White, director of the Institute of Northern Engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Read more: - Keeping It Frozen


The Alaska-Washington Connection; 2008

Arctic Foundations offers worldwide leadership, innovation and experience in passive ground-freezing technology.


Global warming is affecting culture and habitat at the extremes of the earth, according to the Global Warming Project. “Rapid climate change and its effects is fast becoming one of the prime events of the 21st century,” it concluded.


Northern engineer, innovator and entrepreneur Erwin “Erv” Long has been watching land and weather cycles in the North for nearly 60 years, well before the term “global warming” was coined. More and more he understands the importance of keeping frozen ground frozen — stabilized soil is inherent to Arctic construction and infrastructure.


Understanding permafrost is not only important to civil engineering and architecture, it’s also a crucial part of studying global change and protecting the environment in cold regions, according to the IRC Institute for Research in Construction.

Read more: - Global Warming Affects Infrastructure


The Alaska Contractor, Publication of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska; Fall 2007

Erv Long is in the business of freezing ground and keeping it frozen. The founder and owner of Anchorage-based Arctic Foundations Inc. began delving into the subject of permafrost within a year of beginning work with the Army Corps of Engineers in 1948.

Read more: - In The Business Of Frozen Ground


Up Here - Explore Canada's Far North; January/February 2008

They line the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill, Manitoba, flank the NWT Legislative Assembly building in Yellowknife, and were the first thing installed during the construction of Iqaluit's new Anglican church. They're thermosyphons - and they're uniquely Northern devices.

A thermosyphon's job is to keep permafrost frozen. Ingeniously self-powered, they're tubes imbedded in the Earth and filled with pressurized carbon dioxide that's liquid at Northern winter air temperatures.  For much of the winter, permafrost is actually warmer than the air above it, and thermosyphons are designed to make use of the difference, drawing warmth out of the ground until it's chilly enough to survive the summer without melting. 

Read more: - Taking The Heat Off


Engineers struggle to keep houses, buildings and roads from sinking

Alaska Business Monthly; February 2007

Jack Hebert is an optimist. He expects the ground under the Cold Climate Housing Research Center's new, 15,000-square-foot Research and Testing Facility to sink. And he can't wait to see what happens to the building when it does.

"One of the reasons we chose this site is that it was on degrading permafrost and we wanted to do a demonstration project that addressed building on that kind of soil," said Hebert, who is president and CEO of the CCHRC in Fairbanks.

Read more: - Building On Thick Ice


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