Engineers constructing a new railroad across the vast, high-altitude Tibetan Plateau are using a surprisingly simple idea to fortify shifting frozen soils affected by climate warming, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder permafrost expert.
"The Qinghai-Xizang railroad is the most ambitious construction project in a permafrost region since the Trans-Alaska Pipeline," said CU-Boulder and National Snow and Ice Data Center researcher Tingjun Zhang. Zhang is working closely on the project with scientists at the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute in Lanzhou, China. "This is the first time engineers are primarily using crushed rock to insulate and fortify a structure against permafrost," he said.
Zhang will discuss the railroad project and the effects of widespread warming and thawing of frozen soils across the northern hemisphere at a press briefing in San Francisco Dec. 13 as part of the American Geophysical Unions annual meeting. He will lead a panel of permafrost and climate experts from universities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. "If current observations are indicative of long-term trends, we can anticipate major changes in permafrost conditions during the next century," Zhang said. "Permafrost is thawing in many regions, and it is significantly influencing landscapes and ecosystems."
Tingjun Zhang | EurekAlert!
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