Ask Josh: Permafrost

Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick explains what permafrost is and where it's located.

It's been a cold and at times, a snowy, icy winter which that has lead to a hard, frozen ground across our region for the majority of the last couple months.

The icy ground has some folks wondering is this permafrost?  William Baldwain in Huntington sent me an e-mail recently asking: "what exactly is permafrost and does it occur in our area?"

That's a great question!  Permafrost or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point for two or more years.  Ice is not always present, as may be the case of nonporous bedrock.  Most permafrost is located in high latitudes, or in areas close to the North and South poles.  It can also be found in high mountains.  Permafrost does not occur in our region, not even in our local mountains as they are not high enough in altitude.

The extent of permafrost can vary as the climate changes.  Today, approximately 20% of the Earth's land mass is covered by permafrost.

Below is a map (from USGS) which shows the extent of permafrost and the different types.

Folks in places like Barrow, Alaska which has permafrost, must build their homes on stilts to prevent melting the ground which would lead to their homes sinking into the soil.

As the climate warms, permafrost will become less and less.

Keep those great questions coming!  You may send me your question by putting it in a comment below or e-mail me directly at and be sure to include your town.

Thanks for reading my friends.

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