Paper on Frozen Debris Lobes Receives Award at Cold Regions Engineering Conference

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) awarded Dr. Margaret Darrow along with co-authors Dr. Ronald Daanen and Jocelyn Simpson the 2013 International Cold Regions Engineering Conference Best Paper award for “Analysis of a Frozen Debris Lobe: A first look at an Impending Geohazard.” The award was presented to the authors at this year’s conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 19-22, 2015.

Darrow-Paper Award

Frozen debris lobes (FDLs) are slow-moving masses of rock, soil, trees and debris that have garnered the attention of state transportation officials as the lobes’ down slope movement poses a threat to Alaska’s economically important Dalton Highway. Darrow and her research team have identified 43 lobes in the southern Brooks Range, 23 of which are located less than a mile from the highway.

FDL-A, located near milepost 219, is the lobe closest to the road. Using historical imagery, Darrow and her undergraduate research assistant Gyswyt were able to reconstruct its movement since 1955. When she presented her paper in 2013, the lobe was less than 200ft from the Dalton Highway. In May 2015, the same lobe moved downhill to within 130ft of the road.

Neither frozen debris lobes nor Darrow’s research are standing still. Using remote sensing imagery, Darrow’s research team is currently working on obtaining a more complete picture of the composition and behavior of frozen debris lobes so that more accurate predictions can be made regarding their role as geohazards.  A design team at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is already making use of Darrow’s research.

More information on FDL research can be found at

Image above: Dr. Margaret Darrow (center) receives the award for Best Paper at the International Cold Regions Engineering Conference. Photo courtesy of Spencer Guthrie.