1991

The International Geological Correlation Programme, Project No. 297, "Geocryology of the Americas," will have its fourth meeting together with the VI International Conference on Permafrost, 5-9 July 1993, in Beijing, China. The aims of the project are clearly defined as:

  1. to identify present and past geocryogenic processes,
  2. to correlate them across the Americas and the world,
  3. to identify areas of future applications and nature conservation, and
  4. to stimulate training in geocryology.

Dates for submission of abstracts, papers and registrations are the same as for the Permafrost Conference. For more information contact the organizer of the meeting in China: Cui Zhijiu, University of Qeijing, China; or Project 297 leader
Arturo E.Corte, P.O. Box 330,5500 Mendoza, Argentina, Telex: 55438 CYTME AR; Fax: 54-61-380370.

Report by Arturo E. Corte

Cold Regions Division, Canadian Geotechnical Society:

The 44th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Geotechnical Society was held in Calgary, 29 September to 2 October 1991. As usual, the Cold Regions Division sponsored a session on Cold Regions Engineering, in which eight papers were presented. The papers dealt with the distribution of saline permafrost in the N.W.T., the performance of frost heave and freeze-thaw tests in the laboratory, the dynamic response of piles in frozen soils, the performance of grouts for piles in permafrost, arctic offshore exploration structures, penetration testing for arctic soils, and the measurement of pore water pressures in freezing and thawing soils. In addition to this paper session, J.F. (Denck) Nixon, of Esso Resources Canada, Ltd., gave the R.M. Hardy Keynote Address on the topic of "Frost Heave Prediction." In his address, Nixon presented an overview of recent developments in the theory and practice of frost heave modeling.

The Geotechnical Society now includes a fifth Division, the Environmental Engineering Division, which has aroused considerable interest. This Division also sponsored a session at the recent conference, with 13 papers scheduled.

Report from June 1991

Chinese-Soviet Joint Investigations

Joint investigations on alpine permafrost in Central Asia were begun in 1991 by the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, Academia Sinica, and the Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Science. The participants include A.P. Gorbunov, E.D. Ermolin, S.H. Titkov and others from the Soviet Union and Qiu Guoqing, Zeng Zonggong, Wang Shujiun, Zhao Lin and Jin Huijun from China. The 1991 work, focused on the Zailiiski Alatau of the Soviet Union, Mounts Tianger and Western Bogeda in China, includes observations,drilling, electrical sounding and excavations.

A result of the 1991 investigations is improved understanding of periglacial phenomena: e.g., the perennial ice-cored frost mound at the Chinese Tianshan Glaciological Station, and palsa, ploughing stone and polygons in Western Bogeda. A group of polygonal cracks filled with humic soil was dated at 4656±93B.P. in the eastern Zailiiski Alatau. At the Chinese Tianshan Glaciological Station the finding of buried humic soil horizons indicated thickening of the permafrost, with the sediment aggrading since 4301±96 B.P.

The Arctic Studies Centre (Centre d'Etudes Arctiques)

The Arctic Studies Centre, founded in 1957 by its Director, Professor Jean Malaurie, at the "Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales" (EHESS), is the only French organization offering a multidisciplinary program of Arctic research. In 1980, the Centre became a CNRS-EHESS Associated Unity in the framework of the "Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique" (CNRS).

The Centre coordinates work dealing with Arctic research of 12 laboratories at the University and at the CNRS (Besançon, Bordeaux, Caen, Grenoble, Lille, Meudon, Paris). Forty advanced investigators are involved in research programs concerning the earth, life and social sciences:

  • Earth sciences research is mainly directed toward geomorphology (M.-F. André, T. Brossard, B. Vliet-Lanoë), topoclimatology (D. Joly, C. Kergomard), and the study of microfaults along the Fram Strait (C. Lepvrier).
  • Life sciences research principally concerns human chronobiology.
  • Social sciences studies deal with anthropogeography, ethno-geomorphology and problems linked with development.

The 1991 German geoscientific expedition to northem Spitsbergen will take place from May 15 to August 21, 1991. It is supported mainly by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). As in 1990, some 45 geographers, geologists and biologists will visit the Liefdefjorden area and conduct research under the general topic "Land-Sea Sediment Transport in Polar Geosystems." Permafrost-related topics are mainly treated by L. King, Giessen (glacial geomorphology and ground ice), H. Liedtke, Bochum (periglacial geomorphology), and G. Stablein, Bremen (pemafrost mapping). The complete list of working groups was published in Frozen Ground, No. 8. Some working groups intend to continue their permafrost-related research on Svalbard in 1992.

On the engineering side, and with respect to artificial ground freezing, investigation of the properties of frozen soil continued at several university institutes. Deep shafts in frozen ground are under construction; the shaft of Rheinberg especially deserves mention. Artificial ground freezing also is used frequently in tunneling. For a major project the main problems are
thedrillingof roughly 100-meter-long horizontal freeze pipes and the increase of water content needed to achieve the required strength of the frozen ground above the water level.

The Commission on Permafrost Problems at the Committee on Polar Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences continues its activities in Poland. In 1990 a long-term permafrost research program was continued in two areas of western Spitsbergen. In the Homsund Fiord, at the Research Station of the Polish Academy of Sciences, measurements of the ground thermal conditions and dynamics of the permafrost active layer were conducted in conjunction with studies of the hydrometeorology of the area (M. Pulina, J. Pereyma, J. Klementowski, K. Migala). Similar studies were conducted in the Bellsund Fiord (K. Pekala), with particular attention being paid to conditions of the permafrost environment (soils, ecosystem). Different studies, based at the Research Station of Stockholm University inTarfal's Valley, were carried out in the mountain massif of Kebnekajse, Swedish Lapland, in a discontinuous permafrost area. Measurements of soil movement begun in 1982 were completed, with the data providing a clearer estimation of the dynamics of the frost creep process (A. Jahn).

Members of the Commission traditionally meet in Lublin, supported by the University, which is very active in polar matters.  This past year's seminar was devoted to periglacial problems. A book entitled Polar Session, Periglacial Phenomena of Western Spitshergen (Institute of Earth Sciences, M. Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin. 1990) was published as a result of this meeting. It contains 29 reports and two color maps and summarizes Commission activities.

Report from the U.S.S.R., June 1991

A seminar on "Rational Methods of Land Use in the Cryolithozone" was held in Yakutsk, June 1990, at the Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. About 150 specialists from the Academy of sciences, Gosstroi of the U.S.S.R. and the RSFSR, Moscow State University, and other agencies were present. The impact of global climate changes on large reservoirs, linear constructions, agricultural activity and landscapes in the cryolithozone was discussed.

A conference on "Geotechnical and Geocryological Problems" was held in Chita (eastern Siberia) in October 1990. Foundations and basements on permafrost and properties of frozen and frost-susceptible soil were discussed.

Internationally, joint projects were developed between the Permafrost Institute, the Institute of Northern Development of the Siberian Branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and the Institute VSEGINGEO of the Ministry of Geology and the Geological Survey of Canada, Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal and the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University. Installation of special stations in comparable regions of the U.S.S.R. and Canada is planned for 1991-1992 to test geophysical, geotechnical and specialized geocryological methods of studying permafrost zones and to monitor permafrost regimes.

On behalf of the IPA Working Groups on Mountain Permafrost and on Periglacial Environments, and with the Glacier Commission and the Geomorphological Society of the Swiss Academy of Sciencesas co-sponsoring agencies, the Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost organized the International Workshop "Permafrost and Periglacial Environments in Mountain Areas" at Interlaken, Switzerland, 16-20 September 1991. Most of the ongoing research projects in the Swiss Alps were presented at this conference.

Efforts continued to develop a system for long-term monitoring of alpine permafrost by photogrammetrically analyzing repeated aerial photography of several rock glaciers and by measuring borehole temperature and vertical/horizontal deformation. Monitoring of borehole temperatures at the Murtèl drill site reveals a pronounced warming trend as aconsequence of the late 1980s. At 10-m depth where the amplitude of annual temperature variations is reduced to about 0.3°C, the warming rate during the past four years was about 0.5 to 1 °C per decade. Following detailed geophysical mapping and surface sounding (BTS, seismic refraction, DC resistivity, radar), two new permafrost boreholes into bedrock were installed, logged and equipped at the site Ursina above Pontresina/Engadin in connection with problems of avalanche protection and debris flow hazards. First results from borehole temperature and deformation measurements are now available from this site: mean annual permafrost temperatures are close to -0.6° and -1.7°C, permafrost thicknesses are about 35 and 40 m, and surface creep rates of the frozen sediments with up to about 80% ice by volume are 6 and 10 cm/year.

The U.S. Committee for the IPA plans to meet during the August 1992 meeting of the IPA. The U.S. Committee on Permafrost, formerly under the Polar Research Board of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, is no longer active.

ASCE News:

The Technical Council for Cold Regions Engineering (TCCRE) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) met in Orlando, Florida, 24-26 October 1991. A four-paper session was held on Highways and Airfields in Cold Regions. The next meeting of TCCRE is scheduled for 8-10 March 1992 in Long Beach, California. TCCRE/ASCE is considering the formation of a Standing Committee on Permafrost; a decision will be reached in 1992.

The next International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering is scheduled for March 1994 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the following Conference will be held in 1996 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Report by C.W. Lovell,
Chairman, USCDPA