Friday, December 31, 2004

Earth's permafrost starts to squelch

"In addition to northern Alaska, the permafrost zone includes most other Arctic land, such as northern Canada and much of Siberia, as well as the higher reaches of mountainous regions such as the Alps and Tibet. All report permafrost thaw."

Coincidentally, I recently read Robert Silverberg's "Tower of Glass," in which an industrialist builds a giant vertical particle accelerator in Alaska in order to communicate with extraterrestrials. The heat from the accelerator's construction causes the permafrost to melt, endangering the project. So engineers bury refrigeration devices in the soil to keep the ground frozen solid. As the title might suggest, things go very, very wrong.

Climate change and global warming were the last things on Silverberg's mind; the novel is about social injustice. But it looks like he might have inadvertently killed two birds with one well-aimed stone.

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