Groundwater Flow Underneath Roads Causing Thermal Erosion in Permafrost Terrain

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process






2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

Observations and modeling of ground water flow underneath and through road embankments will lead to a better understanding of permafrost stability. Thermal models of road embankments have been a useful tool to understand permafrost stability, but groundwater flow will strongly alter this thermal behavior and needs to be included in the models.

This research is an addition to previously proposed research to study the effect of groundwater flow on permafrost temperatures in Beaver Creek, YT, CA. The proposed study will provide additional data form a new study site along the Dalton Highway near Sukakpak Mountain. The additional data is needed to effectively upscale the knowledge gained from the previous study. After comparing and contrasting the data we will develop a practical tool to estimate an effective thermal conductivity based on groundwater flow estimates.

Related Research (Added by TERI Administrator, March, 2011):
Engineering Techniques to Control Permafrost Degradation under Roads Preservation of the Alaska Highway Phase 2; University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 2009, Active

Urgency and Payoff

Incorporation of ground water flow effects on thermal processes under a road will lead to a better prediction of permafrost degradation. This research will lead to the development of potential permafrost degradation prevention techniques in groundwater flow regions.

Suggested By

Ronald Daanen, University of Alaska Fairbanks

[email protected]