University of Oulu

Hjort, J., Karjalainen, O., Aalto, J., Westermann, S., Romanovsky, V., Nelson, F., Etzelmüller, B., Luoto, M. (2018) Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century. Nature Communications, 9, 5147.

Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century

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Author: Hjort, Jan1; Karjalainen, Olli1; Aalto, Juha2,3;
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, Oulu 90014, Finland
2Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, P. O. Box 64, Helsinki 00014, Finland
3Finnish Meteorological Institute, Weather and Climate Change Impact Research, P.O. Box 503, Helsinki 00101, Finland
4Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1047, Oslo 0316, Norway
5Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks AK 99775 AK, USA
6Earth Cryosphere Institute, Tyumen Science Centre, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, Tyumen 625026, Russian Federation
7Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824 MI, USA
8Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences, Northern Michigan University, Marquette MI 49855 MI, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-01-07


Degradation of near-surface permafrost can pose a serious threat to the utilization of natural resources, and to the sustainable development of Arctic communities. Here we identify at unprecedentedly high spatial resolution infrastructure hazard areas in the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost regions under projected climatic changes and quantify fundamental engineering structures at risk by 2050. We show that nearly four million people and 70% of current infrastructure in the permafrost domain are in areas with high potential for thaw of near-surface permafrost. Our results demonstrate that one-third of pan-Arctic infrastructure and 45% of the hydrocarbon extraction fields in the Russian Arctic are in regions where thaw-related ground instability can cause severe damage to the built environment. Alarmingly, these figures are not reduced substantially even if the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement are reached.

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Series: Nature communications
ISSN: 2041-1723
ISSN-E: 2041-1723
ISSN-L: 2041-1723
Volume: 9
Article number: 5147
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07557-4
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: This research was funded by the Academy of Finland grants no. 285040 and 286950 (INFRAHAZARD Consortium).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 285040
Detailed Information: 285040 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2018. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit