Study: Tundra fires induce permafrost melt, land change

Wildfire on Arctic tundra can cause permafrost melt from the top down, contributing to landscape slumping, known as thermokarst. The U.S. Geological Survey study used airborne technology called LIDAR to collect billions of data points on the landscape surface. The remote sensing equipment uses lasers to build topographical maps.

USGS geographer Ben Jones led the field work. The study looked at the area burned by the Anatuvik River fire in 2007 that burned 400 square miles. Jones says they didn’t study the entire area, but found measurable differences between the studies conducted in the years after the fire.

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Ben Jones is a research geographer with the USGS. The study was published in the latest online edition of Scientific Reports.

Anaktuvuk River Fire, 2007, North Slope, Alaska. Photo: Alaska Fire Service.
Anaktuvuk River Fire, 2007, North Slope, Alaska. Photo: Alaska Fire Service.
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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori