Geography, Geology and the Environment
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Thermokarst Landsystems Working Group meeting
Richard Waller recently attended the inaugural meeting of a research group focusing on the examination of thermokarst landsystems in Northwest Canada. Thermokarst refers to the processes, landforms and sediments associated with the thaw of ice-rich permafrost. Recent rapid warming within the Arctic has resulted in a recent acceleration of these processes that have for example led to the development and rapid expansion of large retrogressive thaw slumps (see photo to the left). The associated landscape disturbances can have wide-ranging impacts on both aquatic ecosystems and on key infrastructure such as roads.
The initial meeting was held at the University of Alberta on the 23-24th January and was attended by over 20 researchers, with Richard delivering a joint talk with Brian Moorman (University of Calgary) on the importance of glacier-permafrost interactions. The research group will utilise a "landsystems" approach to map recent evidence of thermokarst and to identify the environments that are most susceptible to future landscape change. It will also seek to draw together groups of researchers from different backgrounds (e.g. permafrost science, glaciology, geomorphology and Quaternary science) in order to foster more collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to their study.