Permafrost Thaw Triggers Collapse of Infrastructure in Denali National Park, Alaska

News Briefing: 26 April 2022

Denali National Park in Alaska will be largely closed to the public for the next two years due to an unprecedented series of landslides caused by thawing permafrost. These have broken away several sections of the single, 92-mile road leading through the park. As global temperatures rise, they accelerate the thaw of these frozen near-surface soils. This thaw destabilizes the ground and produces large-scale, cascading landslides. According to the National Park Service, Denali is the fastest-warming national park in the United States; and more than half of the park’s landscape lies on top of near-surface permafrost. Erosion and landslides in highly trafficked regions of the park pose a severe threat to local roads, utilities and related infrastructure. Denali National Park normally hosts more than 600,000 visitors every year. This major landslide offers a dramatic and highly visible example of the consequences of continued warming.