Due to the cold climate here in Alaska, soil formation is typically slow. The cold climate slows down decomposition, resulting in large deposits of organic materials (peat). Peat hosts organisms such as moss and lichens and exists above the permafrost layer with mineral soil below. The permafrost layer typically prevents water from percolating downward which can cause wet soil to move and make solifluction lobes! We saw solifluction lobes from the helicopter…they look like melted wax from a candle.

From an engineering aspect, the freeze/thaw patterns in tundra soils can be a hindrance for those who live here. Buildings and homes are typically built above the ground with large poles. As if owning a home and having house projects wasn’t enough… those who live here have to deal with extreme light and dark—but also worry about their foundation sinking into the ground and huge cracks in their roads when commuting. HOWEVER – it’s ridiculously beautiful up here, and they get quite a bit of access to the incredible Aurora Borealis. So right, I get it – and who knows, Alaska could hold my future address.

Arctic soils are so neat. I have been waiting to see and touch gelisols (permafrost soils) since I learned what they were. Permafrost has always interested me and the other day – I had the opportunity to touch it! This was monumental for me.

Not only are they super interesting, but they are a huge carbon sink on this planet. There is important research across the globe investigating potential implications with a warmer climate, thawing of permafrost and release of the stored carbon.

I may add, as the nerdy soil member of the group—I get to use the coolest tools (aka weaponry).

Hasta Luego!


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