Buckled Roads and Melting Permafrost in Bethel, Alaska

Introduction

The global warming debate continues to rage. The bloggers at WUWT continue to write snide commentary on global warming as shown below in Figure 1. This article was written the other day. The arrogance of the article caught my attention and sent me into action to test the robustness of my Tableau climactic dashboards.

Normally I would include a hyperlink to the article, but I know what will happen if I do and I don’t want to waste my time on rebuttals on this topic. Therefore, you can cut the hyperlink out of the picture caption to read the original article if you are so inclined.

headline

Figure 1 – Mr. Middleton snidely states: “Now they just need some warming.” I guess he hasn’t been following my series of articles on global warming, so I’ll have to show him some warming in Bethel, AK. Here is the link to his article, for what it is worth: (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/07/10/the-permafrost-is-dying-bethel-sees-increased-shifting-of-roads-and-buildings-now-they-just-need-some-warming/)

 

Temperature Changes in Bethel, Alaska

Figure 2 shows all the monitoring station data from Alaska that has existed from at least the 1960s until now. The average monthly change in max temperature across the state has been 2.1 deg F, with the largest changes happening in Jan (5.3 deg F) and Feb (3.8 deg F). Many of the monitoring stations are in the interior of the country as shown in Figure 2.

Alaska_Change_DB

Figure 2 – Changes in max daily temperature from all Alaska monitoring stations over 50 years, from the 1960’s to the 2010’s.

 


 

Figure 3, isolates the data for the Bethel, AK monitoring station, which is the orange highlighted dot near the southwestern coast. The average warming is 2.8 deg F, when averaged across the entire year. With the minor exceptions of Mar, Jul, and Sep, the remaining 9 months have all experienced warming in the 2010’s relative to the 1960’s.

Bethel_Change_DB

Figure 3 – Changes in max daily temperature from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station over 50 years, from the 1960’s to the 2010’s.


 

This monthly summary shows that there are five months out of twelve where the max daily temperature change has risen between 4.8 and 6.2 deg F. The biggest changes have occurred in April, Feb, Oct and Dec. If you are going to melt permafrost, I bet that some of those months are good candidates to choose. To understand why I made that statement, we have to look at a little more data.

Bethel AK Daily Max Temp Records

 

To examine the data further, I processed the daily data from this monitoring station for every month of the year. Figures 4 through 15 show this data. These graphics tell us what the average daily maximum air temperatures are by decade, as well as showing the fluctuations that are possible within the 30 or so days of each month.

Bethel_January

Figure 4 -Max January daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


Bethel_February

Figure 5 -Max February daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


Bethel_March

Figure 6 -Max March daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


Bethel_April

Figure 7 -Max April daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_May

Figure 8 -Max May daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_June

Figure 9 -Max June daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_July

Figure 10 -Max July daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_August

Figure 11 -Max August daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_September

Figure 12 -Max September daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_October

Figure 13 -Max October daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_November

Figure 14 – Max November daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


 

Bethel_December

Figure 15 -Max December daily temperatures from the Bethel Alaska monitoring station. The daily Tmax, average annual, and decade averages are shown.


Melting the Permafrost

If you want to melt permafrost, a good strategy is to heat-up the air and the ground to temperatures above 32 deg F. Two good ways to do that are as follows. First, build a black asphalt road that will focus the heat from the sun onto the permafrost beneath the road. Secondly, heat the average air temperature from below freezing to above freezing.

As I previously stated, the month of April has experienced a 6.2 degree rise from an average max temp of 30.5 deg F up to 36.7 deg F. You can see this data in both Figure 3 and Figure 7. Next, hop on over to October (Fig 3 and Fig 13) and see how the 5 deg F change has brought the 34 deg F temp up to 39 deg F. This means that average max air temps are now above freezing for seven straight months (Apr – Oct). What used to be only five months above freezing is now seven months above freezing.

Now I’m not a thermodynamics expert, but I’m pretty sure that if I take ice cubes out of the freezer and lay them outside at 39 deg F, they are going to melt. If I magnify the heating even further by laying a black surface on top of them on a long sunny day like they have in Alaska, they will melt even faster. Since I don’t know when these roads were constructed, I can only presume that the increased air heating over time has shifted the thermodynamic balance point such that the permafrost is no longer being kept frozen.

Final Thoughts

Well, Mr. Middleton, I guess you can now see where the heat has come from in Bethel, AK. You can take your average temperature approach and use it on something else, because when it comes to understanbyding our impact on our world, your approach fails. All we need to do the see how we are impacting our planet is to think about fundamentals like melting points, and thermodynamic disequilibrium.

Finally, Figure 16 shows what melting permafrost can do to roads. Driving on these roads is not a lot of fun for some people, especially if you are in a big RV, but I’ll have to save that story for another day. Thanks, for reading.

buckling

Figure 16 – Buckling roads near Bethel, AK. Picture extracted from the work of Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News.

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