Settlements on permafrost in the Arctic

The map shows the distribution of coastal and inland settlements on permafrost in the Arctic in 2017. Permafrost is ground that is at or below 0°C for at least 2 consecutive years.

The purple tones indicate settlements located on permafrost and distinguishes between coastal (light purple) and inland (dark purple) settlements. Settlements located outside the permafrost extent are in yellow.

Among all Arctic settlements, 66,1% are located on permafrost. Settlements are classified as permafrost settlements if they are located within the permafrost extent, comprising zones of continuous, discontinuous, sporadic, or isolated permafrost. Among all permafrost settlements 46,0% are coastal. Coastal settlements are defined by their dependency to the sea. They are either adjacent to the coast, located inland along large rivers with a free connection to the open sea, or located within a short distance to the sea (0-200 km). In this map, coastal settlements comprise all settlements that are located within an Arctic subregion adjacent to the coast.

Most of the settlements located outside the permafrost extent area are in the Nordic countries (Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, and Finland) as well as in the southern part of Alaska (USA) and the western part of the Russian Arctic. Almost all Arctic settlements in the Russian Federation and in Canada are located on permafrost. The increase in air surface temperature observed in the Arctic causes dramatic changes in the permafrost thermal regime leading to the destabilisation of infrastructure built on permafrost.