Magazine article Natural History

Thawing Thruway

Magazine article Natural History

Thawing Thruway

Article excerpt

Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States, is a popular destination for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, providing them with breathtaking vistas above the tree line. Roughly six miles of the road are underlain by permafrost, however, and climate warming could weaken some of this foundation. To determine whether and how temperatures are changing around the road, in 2008 geomorphologist Jason Janke of the Metropolitan State University of Denver and colleagues installed thirty temperature recorders in the nearby alpine tundra. Since then, they have been continuously logging the temperature at the soil surface and at depths of up to about twenty inches.

The investigators have found that areas of coarse rock tend to have the coldest recorded temperatures along Trail Ridge Road, most likely because cold air settles in the open spaces between the rocks. …

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