Report from June 1992

Several anniversaries were commemorated in Yakutsk on November 1,1991. Fifty years of systematic permafrost research investigations and the 30th anniversary of the Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences were celebrated at a special session. Greetings and congratulations were presented by Academician Koptjug of the Siberian Division of the Academy and by representatives of the Yakutian Republic. A research station was first organized in Yakutsk by the Academy in 1941. This followed the discovery in 1940 of a large supply of underground water under the frozen ground of central Yakutia. In 1956, the station became the North-East Department of Moscow's Obruchev Institute. In 1957-58, geocryological and glaciological research were carried under the International Geophysical Year at a special high mountain station considered to be the Cold Pole of the Northern Hemisphere. In 1960-61, the Permafrost Institute was formed and Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov became its permanent director. The research of the Institute dealt with permafrost and its effects on construction, mining, agriculture and other human activities in the North. In 1969 Academician Melnikov organized the first international field excursion to Yakutia, thus making it feasible to host, in Yakutsk, the Second International Conference on Permafrost in 1973.

The work of the Institute has attained international recognition. Results of fundamental field and experimental investigations on thermokarst, thermal erosion and heat exchange were used in the development of northern and central Yakutia. Many geocryological, landscape, and hydrogeological maps were prepared by the Institute. Recently the Institute has begun participation in the study and monitoring of the cryolithosphere in connection with global climate change. These topics were presented in Frozen Ground No. 10, and result in part from the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its Working Group II on Impacts Assessment. Academician Melnikov has played a leading role in developing the report on cryosphere.

Report by N.A. Grave, Secretary
Russian National Permafrost Committee

Report from December 1992

Climate Change and Permafrost

Permafrost studies in Russia continue within the limits of state scientific-technological programs according to the activity of WMO-UNEP Intergovemmental Panel of Climate Change (see Frozen Ground, no. 10, p. 13, 1991). Some preliminary results of 1992 research work can be summarized as follows:

The assessment of changes in climate parameters was continued. These are based on data from meteorological stations and on ground temperature data for the upper layers of permafrost, obtained from permafrost monitoring test sites in the far north of Western Siberia and European Russia. It was found that in the westem Siberian tundra contemporary climate warming is not clearly expressed. Modem climate ameliorations and deteriorations observed are within the limits of natural fluctuation. The trend of natural degradation of permafrost is obtained by temperature measurements in boreholes, though the period of observation is too short and could coincide with one of the short-wave climate fluctuations.

A more distinctive degradation of permafrost under different natural conditions has been established in the northern part of the European portion of Russia (Vorkuta region, Ust Perchora, Kozotaicha). Since 1970 the temperature of the upper 20-m layer of frozen ground has been rising, the depth of seasonal thaw increasing, and the permafrost table lowering.

Climatic warming during the last few decades, beginning in the 1950s, is clearly expressed in the continental area of permafrost (Yakutsk). A sign of long-term warming of the permafrost in Yakutsk is the slow thawing of its bottom layers-some millimeters per year.

Experimental studies are in progress of special facilities to protect construction based on frozen ground from destruction due to warming of foundations and thus diminished bearing capacity. The results allow us to recommend the use of artificial cooling of foundations combined with thermoinsulation. It is calculated that in Yakutsk, using such a method, the temperature of a foundation might be lowered from -3°C to -13°C and the construction could be kept from being destroyed during 180 years of climatic warming.

The dynamics of arctic coastal areas are being studied on special test sites, situated in the deltas of the two biggest rivers of Siberia-the Lena and Kolyma rivers. Using benchmarks and airphotos it was found that the rate of shoreline retreat through thermoerosion and abrasion where the ground is very icy varies from year to year. The maximum rate of 36 m/yr was observed in the Kolyma River delta; 15-20 m was observed in the Lena delta. The average velocity of shoreline retreat in the area is 1-4 m/yr.

The research program is being accomplished by Russian Academy institutes, Ministry institutes, and Moscow State University in cooperation with the Institute of Low Temperature Science (Japan) and the Geological Survey of Canada. Detailed results will be published.

In 1991-1992 the Scientific Council on Earth Cryology issued through Nauka (in Russian):

  1. Denudation in the Cryolithozone. A. J. Popov, ed.
  2. The Upper Horizon of Permafrost. P. I. Melnikov and Yu. U. Shur, ed.
  3. Engineering Geocryological Problems in the Transbaikal Area, V.T. Balobaev and M.R. Gavrilova, ed.

Prepared by N.A. Grave

Global Ecological Monitoring Project

The International Workshop, Global Ecological Monitoring Project was held 8-12 August 1992 in Dubna, Russia, organized by The Ecological Station of Environmental Control (ESCOS), World Laboratory Branch, Russia, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, USA. About 200 representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies, scientists and managers of defense-related industries from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Italy and China participated.

The participants in the workshop reviewed evidence that there is danger to human life and welfare in major regions of our planet associated with extreme ecological damage, especially in areas of republics in the territory of the former Soviet Union, including some regions of the Arctic.

An appeal of the participants in the workshop "To the Governments of the USA, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and the People's Republic of China" signed by Edward Teller (USA), Yevgeniy Velikhov (Russia) and Antonino Zichichi, President of the World Laboratory (Italy) stressed that an essential condition for diminishing the hazards to human welfare of these damaged ecosystems is monitoring major changes in the native biota and the overall health of the resident people, along with measurement of ongoing anthropogenic changes in environmental quality indices. An important step in addressing these problems would be the creation of an integrated ecological monitoring sytem that should include space-, air- and land-based measurements.

Contanlination of the Arctic environment from both existingand potential sources located within the former Soviet Union's territory, as well as transport processes, i.e. movements of pollutants toward the neighboring countries, and the present state of the Russian Arctic environment were discussed in a paper presented by V.E. Roujansky, ESCOS. It pointed out that the geoecological mapping of the permafrost zone is essential to the understanding of the accumulation and release of pollutants in the active layer and in perennially frozen ground and migration of pollutants in permafrost.

Submitted by V.E. Roujansky
ESCOS World Laboratory Branch