6.4 Determine how warming and thawing permafrost impacts infrastructure and human health.

Thawing of ice-rich permafrost and melting of massive ground ice bodies causes terrain subsidence. This subsidence can result in extensive and costly damage to critical infrastructure and create new risks for northern residents. Across much of the Arctic where transportation infrastructure is not duplicated, damages could cut off easy access to communities. Permafrost warming and thaw can also impact human health through release of dissolved organic carbon or biological and chemical contaminants into drinking water supplies, through disruption of sewage collection and disposal systems, and through alteration of water drainage patterns in communities.

Performance elements from the Arctic research plan

  • 6.4.1 Survey Federal research agencies and non-Federal partners/stakeholders on their use of tools, methods, and means to monitor changes in landscape conditions due to changes in permafrost with a focus on hazards to infrastructure and health. Develop, enhance, and update “Best Practices” guides for mitigation of impacts to building foundations and other infrastructure.
  • 6.4.2 In collaboration with relevant Indigenous organizations, survey local communities and regional agencies—those which maintain infrastructure and monitor health—on the impacts of warming and thawing permafrost. Integrate these responses within a document characterizing and summarizing overall impacts of warming and thawing permafrost.

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