Permafrost Database and Maps for Northern Alaska


Maximum Thaw Settlement Potential 2014

Permafrost is a unique characteristic of polar regions and high mountains and it is fundamental to geomorphic processes and ecological development in those environments.  To assess the vulnerability of permafrost to climate change and how permafrost degradation may affect ecosystems and human activity, better information is needed on the nature and distribution of permafrost in northern Alaska. Toward this goal, this project compiled existing permafrost data into a region-wide permafrost database, developed detailed descriptions and landscape profiles presenting permafrost characteristics by geomorphic units, and produced thematic permafrost maps through revision and attribution of an existing landscape-level maps. 

This effort updates existing ecological mapping and provides an intermediate-level mapping of permafrost for Northern Alaska. The following GIS themes are provided: permafrost extent, thermokarst landforms, maximum settlement potential, massive ice, segregated ice, biome, ecoregion, ecological subsection, ecological section, ecological landscape, soil landscape, physiography, lithology, general geology, average elevation (m), and mean annual air temperature (c).  To download these GIS data in geodatabase or shapefile format: Click Here

In addition, data for 861 permafrost field sites including site descriptions, photography and borehole logs were compiled from throughout northern Alaska. These data together with the ecological mapping can be viewed at a web mapping portal.  To access this web portal: Click Here

The permafrost-soils data associated with public access sources have been compiled in a Permafrost Access database that can be downloaded: Click Here

To access the final report and thematic maps of the GIS data for this project: Click Here

This project builds upon a legacy of permafrost soils data collected by a variety of researchers since 1990 as well as ecological mapping that has been undertaken by the Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, and the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ALCC).   Additional information on permafrost characteristics in northern Alaska can be found in the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Survey’s Guidebook 10 entitled Coastal Region of Northern Alaska, Guidebook to Permafrost and Related Features ( Major contributors of permafrost soil descriptions and laboratory data include the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Palmer Research Center, ARCO, ConocoPhillips Alaska, ABR, Alaska Ecoscience, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

Primary funding for this data compilation and synthesis was provided by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ALCC) with additional support from the North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI).