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.

Following the recommendation of the IPA Working Group"Foundations and Construction in Permafrost," an international seminar on the problem of the impact of the predicted climate warming on construction on permafrost was organized by the U.S.S.R. National Permafrost Committee in Norilsk (Central Siberia, Krasnoyarsky region) in May 1991 (see Working Group report).

Four Soviet scientists took part in the meeting "One Hundred Years of Polar Research " held at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A., June 1990. The Soviet guests presented reports and warmly greeted Dr. A.Assur, in whose honor the meeting was held and who had for many years assisted with Soviet-American contacts in the field of geocryology.

Soviet scientists took part in final drafting of the report Enviromental Impacts and Socio-Economical Consequences of Climatic Changes in Seasonal Snow Cover, Ice and Permafrost, included in the General Report for the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, November 1990.

Three books were published by the Permafrost Institute (Yakutsk) in 1990:

  • The Stabilization of Frozen Ground in the Basement of Buildings, by L. Khrustalev and V. Nikiforov, Novosibirsk, Nauka.
  • Pile Foundations on Thawing Soil, by V. Torgashev and P. Salnikov, Yakutsk.
  • Snow Cover and Seasonal Freezing in the Northern Tyan-Shan, by I . Severski and E. Severski. Yakutsk.

Prepared by
N.A. Grave

The All-Union Research Institute of Hydrology and Engineering Geology

The All-Union Research Institute of Hydrology and Engineering Geology (VSEGINGEO), Ministry of Geology, located in the Noginsk District of the Moscow region, has a staff of about 100 undertaking the following programs on geocryology.

Complex geocryological and hydrogeologic study and mapping of the upper rock horizons of the Artic permafrost zone, including nature conservation zoning and geolocial environment mapping: The technology consists of a complex of methods for obtaining geocryologic regional information necessary for rational placing of engineering objects, economical permafrost drilling, and working out measures for nature conservation. It includes the analysis and generalization of available regional information; complex hydrogeological and geocryological survey at any scale using aerial and satellite photography; high-frequency profiling and other geophysical methods; deep well observations, short-term monitoring of geocryologic processes and development of a system of applied programs and prediction of possible changes in the geocryological conditions under human impact. Use of geocryologic maps obtained for finding optimal routes of linear structures and optimal placing of settlements results in savings of 30% of building expenditures. The technology for compiling nature conservation maps (sensitivity maps) at different scales has been successfully used in oil and gas development areas in West Siberia.

Study and mapping of geocryological conditions when exploring placer deposits in permafrost zones: The technology obtains, rationally and economically, information on geocryological conditions needed for deposit mining, including temperature, icing and geocryologic properties of ice-rich loose rocks, and possible cryogenic physical and geological processes.

Technology of control for thermodenudation processes under placer surface mining in the Arctic aimed at a higher efficiency for mining enterprise and environmental preservation: The technology was developed in northern Yakutia for control of thermodenudation processes on slopes (opencast flanks), especially those containing ice-rich rocks, making it possible to reduce the volume of the loose material from the flanks (slopes of open pits) and washing under placer deposits, and also to reduce effects in neighboring openwater reservoirs and channels.

Consulting on territory recultivation following placer deposit mining in permafrost: The methods allow the selection of the best variants for recultivation of mined territories containing ice-rich rocks.

Determining the reliability of landscape indication for engineering and geocryological conditions: This method permits determination of the reliability of landscape indicators for temperature, rock composition and properties and possible limits of their changeability based on mathematical analysis of geological conditions.

Predictions of cryogenic crack parameters in permafrost rocks: The CRACK program allows calculation of cryogenic crack formation, depth and width, for ground with a given composition and under given climatic conditions, including snow cover. The program can be used for predicting cryogenic cracks in soil plots, embankments, roadways and runways.

Accelerated high-frequency electric profiling equipment (HFEP): HFEP technology is amodified electric profiler (EP) and is based on the use of capacitance lines of 8 to 10 meters length. A 20- to 30-meter interval of depth is used. Geological problems solved with HFEP and EP methods are the same. HFEP technology is more effective as compared to EP when working in dry sands, gravels and stone streams for making measurements from frozen ground and snow cover surface. HFEP productivity is from three to four times higher and cost is three times lower than that of EP using alternating current.

Stationary investigations and predictions of freezing and thawing processes and thermal regime of rocks in permafrost zones: The technology allows observation of freezing and thawing processes and a change of temperature in permafrost zones in time and also prediction of these changes on the basis of data observed. It consists of a) studying cryogenic composition of seasonally thawed or seasonally frozen rock layers; b) instrumental observation of rock temperature, depth of thawing and surface deformation; c) calculation of seasonal thawing and freezing depth, considering surface covers such as snow, vegetation, asphalt, etc.; and d) prediction of rock temperature regime changes under given human impact on the surface. Its use is necessary for any type of building and agricultural land use in permafrost zones.

Prediction of stresses in the walls of cold underground gas lines, caused by cryogenic cracks and ground heaving: This method permits calculation of possible stresses in the walls of cold underground gas conduits caused by heaving and cracks in the ground, assuming the ground composition and properties, size and depth of gas line, and local climate characteristics such as temperature and snow cover thickness are known.

Laboratory investigations of frozen and thawed rock cryogenic properties: Rock cryogenic properties are studied with complex methods consisting of a) cryoscopic and adsorption-hygroscopic method of nonfreezing water determination; b) a simplified method of determining active specific surface of dispersive grounds and compacted rocks with rigid links; c) method of determining mass transfer coefficients in clayey, sandy and semi-hard rocks; d) relaxation methods of determining deformation and strength factors of frozen ground under tension and side compression; e) method of determining failure viscosity coefficient; and f) method of calculating permafrost thermal heave factors.

Prediction of geocryologic condition changes in permafrost zones under development: This technology allows prediction of rock temperature changes and cryogenic physical and geological processes development depending on a given local human impact. The technology consists of a complex of programs including prediction of snow cover thickness, rock surface temperature, annual average temperature, depth of freezing-thawing, thermokarst, heaving, erosion, cracking, solifluction and others. The technology has been used for nature-preserving aims in areas of oil and gas field development in the north of West Siberia.

Modified from a report by
S.E.Grechishchev, Head
Geocryology Department, VSEGPJGEO

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

The Problem of Climate Change and Permafrost:

According to the activity of the WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change, three projects within the limits of State scientific-technological programs were developed and financed for the U.S.S.R.:

  1. Assessment of Impact of Global Climate Change on the Cryolithozone;
  2. Monitoring of the Cryolithozone;
  3. Cryosphere: Dynamics of the Coastal Area.

The basic investigations are carried out by the Permafrost Institute and Cryosphere Institute of the Siberian Branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, other institutions of the Academy, departments of the Moscow State University, VSEGINGEO and other agencies. The research is guided under the leadership of Academician P.I. Melnikov.

Project 1 : Scientific analysis of contemporary cryolithozone in the U.S.S.R. and scenarios of its possible changes: The changes of climate during the past 100 years in the permafrost area of the U.S.S.R. and the assessment of permafrost/surface temperature and thickness of the active layer are being studied. The emission of greenhouse gas from degrading frozen ground into the atmosphere at stations established in North Yakutia and the Magadan area. Estimates of methane release from gas hydrates should be undertaken.

Project 2: The evolution of heat balance in permafrost by the natural and man-induced climate change within the limits of diflerent blocks of lithosphere: Special stations for systematic temperature measurements in permafrost to the depth of 20-30 m are being established. One of those stations is situated near Yakutsk and is being managed by the U.S.S.R. Permafrost Institute and Japanese Institute of Low Temperature Science. Two stations in Yamal Peninsula (West Siberia) and at the Viljuii hydropower station (Yakutia) are under construction. Additional stations are proposed to be established in different areas of Siberia, the Far East and in China along meridians crossing the permafrost area.

Project 3: History of permafrost during Pleistocene and Holocene:Assessment of the contemporary changes of the landscapes in the region of the Novosibirsky Islands and adjacent coastal plains is in progress. Equal to this, the investigations to elaborate measures to protect structures and facilities from anticipated negative impacts of permafrost degradation have begun. The new types of foundations and methods to strengthen the basements from thawing are being developed. Experiments on test sites using artificial cooling for weak foundations are in progress.

Report by N.A. Grave,
U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences

The Conference on Ground Ice and Cryornorphogenesis:

The Department of Geocryology of the Moscow State University and the Division of Complex Investigations of Chukotka, Northeastern Research Institute, Far Eastern Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences co-organized the Conference on Ground Ice and Cryomorphogenesis under the direction of the Interdepartmental Lithological Committee, Section "Cryolithogenesis" and Scientific Council on Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.

The conference was held 19-24 August 1991, in Anadyr, Chukotka, U.S.S.R., and was attended by specialists from the U.S.S.R., the U.S.A. and Japan. Thirty-three Soviet participants, including E.D. Ershov, I.D. Danilov, A. Raukas, G.I. Dubikov, V.G. Kondratev, Y .P. Lebedenko, G.Z. Perlshtein, N.A. Shpolyanskaya, R. Vaikmaye, among others, represented 14 Soviet universities, academic institutions and ministries, as follows: Departments of Geocryology (Faculty of Geology) and Cryolithology (Faculty of Geography) of Moscow State University; Lvov State University; Permafrost Institute, Siberian Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk; Tianshan High Mountain Geocryological Laboratory of the Permafrost Institute; Northeastern Division of the Permafrost Institute, Magadan; the Division of Complex Investigations of Chukotka, Northeastern Research Institute, Far Eastern Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences; Institute of Geology, Estonian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Engineering Site Investigations, Moscow; Mining Institute, Siberian Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk; All-Union Research Institute of Hydrotechnics named after B.E. Vedeneev. St. Petersburg; NPO Site Investigations for Construction; Institute "Mosgiprotrans," Moscow.

The U.S. participants included Jerry Brown, Ray Kreig, James Rooney, Duane Miller, Max Brewer and Beez Hazen. Japanese participants were Masami Fuku, Institute of Low Temperature Science; and Shinji Saito. Nagoya City University.

Professor Edward Ershov, Head of the Department of Geocryology, MSU, was the Conference's Presiding Officer and Chairman of the Organizing Committee. Dr. M. Tishin, Head of the Geocryological Laboratory, Division of Complex Investigations of Chukotka, was Co-chairman of the Organizing Committee and the Conference host. Dr. N.I. Trush was Scientific Secretary of the Conference.

Twenty-three papers were presented, including six American and Japanese reports, in four categories:

  • Theoretical and regional problems of ground ice formation and cryomorphogenesis
  • Isotopic chemical composition of ground ice and host frozen soils
  • History of ground ice formation and paleocryogenic phenomena
  • Ground ice and industrial development of the permafrost zone

Present-day theoretical and practical problems of ground ice formation were discussed in papers by Danilov and Ershov. Classification of massive ice and problems related to the formation and genesis of massive ice in the northern part of Western Siberia and within the alpine permafrost zone of the Middle and Central Asia's mountains were addressed by Danilov, Shpolyanskaya and Ermolin. Problems related to the structural ice formation and to microstructure of frozen soils were discussed by Ershov, Lebedenko and Chuvilin. Isotopic-chemical composition of ground ice and glaciers were addressed by Vaikmaye, Fukuda, Dubikov, Kotov and Bragnik.

Vaikmaye presented results of comparative analysis of isotope composition of oxygen in ground ice and glaciers for paleoclimatic reconstructions. Fukuda addressed a paper on occurrence of ice-wedge ice and its chemical composition in the Tertiary bedrock at Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Dubikov's primary concern was geochemistry of massive ice and frozen host soils. Raukas discussed the current state of the problem of the Pleistocene cryogenic periods and glacial formations. He proposed critical analysis of the most recent stratigraphic schemes compiled on the U.S.S.R. European part and also their correlation. Kotov,Bogutsky, Voloshin and others discussed paleocryogenic problems of ground ice formation in Chukotka and Western Ukraine.

Brown presented results of investigations of active layer and near-surface ground ice characteristics at Barrow, Alaska. Rooney presented results of engineering geological site investigations in the Copper River Basin, Alaska, which revealed patterns of ice distribution in frozen lacustrine and glacial marine deposits. Kreig presented results of test borings from mounds in the Little Tonsina River valley, Alaska. Airphoto analysis and borehole data suggest a frost heave mechanism for formation of the mounds within the Southern Copper River Basin. Climatic change and temperatures of permafrost in arctic Alaska were addressed by Brewer. Duane Miller presented examples of application of new technology in Arctic engineering.

Roujansky and Danilov discussed relationships between development of the permafrost zone in the Northern Eurasia in the Late Cenozoic and neotectonics. They showed the role of different scale tectonic movements in the evolution of the permafrost zone, in particular, of its cryogenic topography.

The influence of ground ice on the industrial development of the Arctic and the permafrost zone of the Soviet Union was discussed by Krivonogova, Kondratev And several others.

Several field trips included visits to various industrial enterprises in Anadyr region, including a power station and a dam, and some construction and engineering sites in Anadyr, and test sites of the Anadyr permafrost laboratory. One of the test sites called "Ozemoe" is used for agricultural research on tundra terrain. The 1700-m-long, 16-m-high earth dam and underlain by permafrost is kept frozen with a large number of thermopiles placed to depths of 16-35 m.

A boat trip from Anadyr city along the northem coast of the Onemen Bay to the Cape Rogoznyi allowed observation of different types of ground ice outcrops along the bluff. The Late Pleistocene frozen deposits with massive ice and syngenetic ice-wedges compose various geomorphological levels and are heterogeneous both in horizontal plan and in cross section.

The Conference coincided with dramatic events in the Soviet Union (August coup). The Soviet conferees expressed their sincere appreciation to the American and Japanese colleagues for their solidarity and support for the democratic process.

The Conference was a success thanks to support of its sponsors: Center of Youth's Initiative, Yakutsk: Northeastern Research Institute, Far Eastern Branch. U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Magadan and Anadyr; Executive Committee of Soviet of People's Deputies of Chukotka, Anadyr.

The Conference provided an excellent opportunity for Soviet, American and Japanese participants to share their achievements and new ideas on permafrost science and cold regions engineering. The next meeting is proposed to be held in Lvov, Ukraine, U.S.S.R., and Tallinn, Estonia, in 1993.

Report by Vladislav E. Roujansky and Edward D. Ershov,
Moscow State University