Permafrost is a unique characteristic of polar regions and high mountains and is fundamentalto geomorphic processes and ecological development in permafrost-affected environments.Because permafrost impedes drainage and ice-rich permafrost settles upon thawing, degradationof permafrost in response to climate change will have large consequences for tundra and borealecosystems (Osterkamp 2005, Jorgenson and Osterkamp 2005, Shur and Osterkamp 2007,Jorgenson et al. 2010, 2013). Thawing permafrost affects surface hydrology by impoundingwater in subsiding areas and enhances drainage of upland areas. Changes in soil drainage altersoil carbon dynamics, habitats for vegetation and wildlife, and emissions of greenhouse gases(Ping et al. 2002, Grosse et al. 2011), but the magnitude of these changes is highly dependent onthe type and amount of ground ice, surficial materials, and thaw-settlement characteristics (Shur1977, 1988, Shur and Osterkamp 2007, Pullman et al. 2007, Jorgenson 2008a). Despite thecritical importance of permafrost to ecosystem responses to climate change, permafrostcharacteristics of Alaska have been mapped in only generalized regional maps (Ferrians 1965,Jorgenson et al. 2008b), and site-level terrain unit maps for engineering design and impactassessments (Kreig and Reger 1982, Jorgenson et al. 2004). An intermediate-level map is neededto improve landscape-level assessments, regional climate impact modeling and prediction, and asan intermediate step toward developing a larger scale surficial geology/permafrost map forAlaska. In turn, progress in improving permafrost maps will depend on compilation andacquisition of field data that form the basis for photo-interpretation and spatial extrapolation
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