By: Riley St.Ledger
Summary. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline is one of the world's largest oil pipelines, spanning about 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay in North Alaska to Valdez in the South. The pipeline carries almost 2 million barrels of oil across Alaska every day. But recent thawing of permafrost has threatened some supports holding the pipeline, putting the structural integrity in complete danger. A slope with an 810 foot long section of pipeline has already started to slip because of melting permafrost, causing the braces of the section to bend. Possible rupturing of the pipeline could result in a huge oil spill in a remote landscape, making it extremely difficult to clean up. Plus, any spill could release thousands of gallons of oil, which could only accelerate the thawing permafrost even more. Implications of the thawing permafrost can give people an idea about the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety, and on the landscape in Alaska. Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two years, and it makes up nearly 85% of Alaska. In recent decades, the permafrost temperatures have warmed about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, causing increased thawing. To hopefully combat this melting, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is installing 100 thermosyphons, tubes that will suck heat out of the permafrost, to try and prevent further damage to the pipeline's structure, and keep frozen slope from slipping any further. But, there are still concerns with these cooling tubes. They haven't been used once a slope has already begun to slide, and the permafrost is already in the process of thawing. Plus, the thermosyphons will help keep the permafrost from melting around the oil pipeline, which is only adding to the extraction of more fossil fuels that are causing the melting in the first place. Besides the pipeline, roads and bridges and other infrastructure will also deteriorate faster than expected because of the thawing permafrost. This is a large problem that will continue to affect many aspects of life in Alaska.
Why we should care? This is an important topic because of the problems climate change is causing in Alaska, as well as in the Arctic. These places are heating twice as fast was the rest of the globe because of global warming, and are facing more problems quicker.
This article caught my attention because of how dangerous this situation could be. The Trans Alaskan pipeline stretches across the entirety of Alaska and has carried 20 billion gallons of oil since it was first established. The constant melting of permafrost in the future could cause multiple leaks, and increase the amount of oil spills occurring. The spills are already difficult to clean up, and of course are dangerous to the environment. There are solutions to the melting, so hopefully once those are in place there will be a decrease in thawing, and a positive change on the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Miriam Jones is a Research Geologist for Florence Bascom Geoscience Center.
Dr. Jones uses proxies to interpret climate and landscape change over timescales. Her current focuses are responses to abrupt permafrost thaw, sea level rise, sea ice retreat, and land use change. She has done research about the Alaskan permafrost and the abrupt thawing, which will release greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change even more. The climate change that is causing this melting is also increasing global climate change, which amplifies the dangers that permafrost melting really causes. This is relevant information to know about the permafrost melting, because of the added dangers that weren't covered in the main articles on this topic.
This is super interesting but also very scary and sad to think about. I also did my blog post on the permafrost melting, primarily in the Arctic, and there is so much harm to the environment from global warming alone. The fact that global warming could also cause oil spills and damage pipelines is really scary and is something that should be focused on more.
This article is particularly concerning due to both the politics of the issue and the environmental impact. The issues with oil and natural gas transmission is constantly being lobbied and companies keep trying to expand this. This creates so many issues regarding the environment from risks of leaks to like this article mentioned, permafrost. I didn't know the issues of melting permafrost were this serious. It's good that there are things being done to help this, but unfortunately more needs to be done.
This is a very interesting topic and I cannot believe that this is happening. Permafrost is so detrimental to the warming of the Earth and the fact that it may cause an oil spill is crazy. I like how the Alaskan Pipeline is considered so great by so many people. I think that the information you presented here should be more publicized and well known. It is very scary especially for the people that will be personally affected. ore attention needs to be brought to this so that people know how they can help!
This is an aspect of the melting permafrost that I did not consider. It is obvious though, through your article that this issue could get much worse. Through research of similar oil spills, I found an amazing article explaining the ability of some fungi and plants to absorb the oil from spills for bioremediation. However, this research was done in the Amazon rainforest and I am not sure if the fungi/plants could grow in colder climates around the permafrost. There is more research to be done as unfortunately the oil industry will not go down without a fight.
I chose to read this article because the issues of pipelines and global warming is something I don't know much about. Wow, this article was interesting to read and makes me so upset. I feel like the topic of pipelines is not as common and if more awareness was raised, more people would want to do something to help out. Especially since this oil pipeline is up north, it gives even more reason for not many people to know about issues like this. It's scary to know that major oil pipelines have the potential to break, and upsetting to me that it is such a quiet subject.
This was a very interesting topic. I did not know a lot about the relation of climate change/global warming to pipelines, especially the Trans-Alaskan pipeline. I know how valuable this pipeline is, and to hear that it could end up leaking and/or rupturing is very scary. We already know how detrimental oil spills are in general, particularly big ones that have happened in the ocean. To have an impact as big on land would also be very destructive. I did not think about the consequences of melting permafrost affecting something like this, and something needs to be done before it's too late.
I love pipelines, especially oil ones! They never have any major issues that threaten wildlife and water quality. If it were up to me Id keep all of them running including the ones crossing major waterways. Who cares about the animals and the landscape? money is more important! Oil spills never get old.
Benjamin - I almost slipped on the sarcasm oozing from your comment. LOL
It’s so frustrating to see how corporations prioritize money over the environment. Permafrost is so important to the environment and it being gone will only worsen oil spills. It is crucial that corporations start changing their ways and slowing the climate crisis, as it already is causing major damage.
This entire situation seems extremely messy, both literal and morally. It's insane to me that people who probably spent quite some time researching this did not install preemptive measures on the pipeline, but rather put corrective devices after issues arise.
Wow! This is scary to hear about. It seems as if this pipeline is a ticking time bomb, just waiting for something to go wrong. It seems clear that this is yet another example of a misdirected, mismanaged project by oil companies.
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