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Media opportunity: Sea‑level rise causing permafrost along Arctic coastlines to thaw and retreat, threatening northern ecosystems: Dalhousie research
Sea-level rise is causing saltwater to move into terrestrial environments and freshwater reservoirs along coastlines around the world -- a concerning phenomenon that has been studied extensively.
Little is known, however, about how this saltwater intrusion affects high-latitude permafrost environments like the Arctic, where permafrost plays a vital role in stabilizing coastlines, regulating groundwater flow and locking carbon and greenhouse gases in the sediment. This knowledge gap limits projections of climate change impacts on coastal Arctic ecosystems and communities.
In a new study, researchers at Dalhousie University developed a mathematical model to evaluate the impacts of sea-level rise and associated saltwater intrusion on coastal permafrost. They found that sea-level rise causes saltwater to intrude into the unfrozen pore space in permafrost, causing it to thaw and retreat at a rate similar to thaw caused by atmospheric and land surface warming.
Julia Guimond, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Dal’s Department of Civil and Resource Engineering and lead author of the paper, is available to discuss how saltwater intrusion triggers permafrost thaw and the potential implications for coastal infrastructure and global warming.
Senior Research Reporter
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