Kathy Lenniger was running her dogsled team one day along her usual route in Fairbanks, Alaska, when she suddenly splashed into overflow, fresh water spilling on top of the snow. Surprised and chilled, she returned to the parking lot, where a lanky man was loading a sled with science equipment. Nicholas Hasson, it turned out, was studying thawing permafrost — research that could shed light on the streams and sinkholes that recently materialized around Lenniger’s property and all around town.
Lenniger lives in a log cabin in Goldstream Valley, a spruce-lined swale with a rolling view of the Northern Lights near Fairbanks. “It’s the birthplace of American permafrost research, actually,” said Hasson, a Ph.D. student at the nearby University of Alaska Fairbanks, or UAF. During World War II, the military feared the ribbons of dancing light were interfering with its radar, so Congress passed an act in 1946 establishing the Geophysical Institute at UAF. Soon, scientists were investigating the strange phenomena in the sky and drilling boreholes around Goldstream Valley to study the frozen ground beneath their feet.
Since then, temper... Read more