Science: Pesky Permafrost

The Arctic-conscious U.S. Army has to keep the Frozen North frozen. The reason: beneath much of Alaska, as in other Arctic lands, lies a thick layer of "permafrost," or permanently frozen ground. It is hard and firm, but, as Russians discovered in Siberia long ago, even a trickle of heat can turn it to slithery muck. Roads and airport runways, absorbing summer sun, get as squashy as cranberry bogs. In winter, the warmth of a heated building may seep into the permafrost, allowing floors to sink and walls to wobble drunkenly. Many Alaskan villages, built in defiance of permafrost, look like...

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