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 Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. 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. 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. 

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