Thursday, April 5, 2007
Permafrost is something that is typically found in high latitude areas, with approximately one-fifths of the earth’s land mass containing them. Permafrost is any soil that has remained permanently frozen for at least 2 years. In fact, due to the presence of permafrost, there are (supposedly) only 7 naturally occurring species of plants in
. The most common ones being the Birch and the Black Spruce, with the black spruce being the only plant that can actually survive permafrost (The picture shows the black spruce towards the left and birch towards the right). The presence or absence of birch can actually be used as an indicator of the presence of permafrost soil. Due to the permafrost, architectural construction is actually very tricky out here, with possible instabilities in the foundation if proper surveying is not undertaken. Many cabins in Fairbanks are maintained on stilts, so that the houses do not sink when the upper layer of the permafrost melts. Due to the arid climate and the presence of permafrost, many people live in “dry cabins”, with no hot water supply coming into the house. With an 8-month long harsh winter, setting up and maintaining hot water conduits is more expensive than getting hot water into the houses. So essentially, most buildings around the UAF campus have restrooms with attached showers for people to use. This was something that I first noticed and without knowing about dry cabins, I thought it was for people who got stuck in their offices under heavy snows accumulation. It was only later that I realized that it was not snow but the absence of hot water around town that made showers in offices a requirement.