Report from June 1995

A summary of the highly successful meeting of the Scientific Council on Earth Cryology is reported elsewhere (p. 3-4). N.A. Grave has also provided a very useful summary of the monitoring session held during the council meetings. Copies are available by direct mail or E-mail from the Secretary General's ofice. In addition to many national and international activities, Russian geocryologists and cryopedologists are actively involved in the development of the Global Geocryological Database. The results of some of those activities are provided in the reports of the Data and Information and Cryosols Working Groups (p. 5 and 8). These include a compilation of over 370 published permafrost maps, a list of Russian organizations and institutions with potential permafrost data holdings, results of a pilot project to extract soil temperature data from existing meteorological station records, and borehole data from units within the IPA permafrost maps. The initial steps to prepare an international soils legend and map of regions underlain by permafrost have been taken.

Numerous bilateral and multilateral initiatives are underway, including the joint program with Japan and a program started with Sweden in 1994 on Tundra Ecology-34. A guidebook entitled Diversity of Natural Ecosystems in theRussian Arctic was prepared by Russian specialists and published (Reprocentralen Lunds Universitet) with general soils and permafrost conditions described for some 20 sites visited by the TE-94 field parties. Under the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) program, active layer measurements are being obtained at several sites (see Global Change and Permafrost Working Group report; p. 6). Active layer data are being collected (by German colleagues) at several sites on the Taimyr Peninsula as well as in West Siberia and Chukotka using the ITEX-IPA protocol.
Plans for the Second International Conference on Cryopedology have been announced (see inside back cover). Finally, the Russian participants in the IPA Council meeting in Berlin will introduce a proposal to establish an International School for Permafrost. Results of those discussions will be announced in the next issue of Frozen Ground.

 


 

Report from December 1995

A special session on "Monitoring in the Cryolithozone" was included in the annual meeting of the Scientific Council on Earth Cryology in Pushchino (near Moscow) 24-28 April 1995 (see Frozen Ground 17, p. 3-4). Seven papers were presented at the special session devoted to the monitoring problem. In addition, some papers connected with the problem were discussed at the other special sessions.
An overview paper, "Monitoring of Global Changes in the Permafrost Zone," was presented by A. Pavlov. He predicted that by 2020 the temperature of the ground surface would increase by about 2.5°C. Seasonal thawing would be deeper by 15-25%. An expected warming of global climate would reduce temperature contrasts in the permafrost. An interrelationship between climate warming and the intensity of cryogenic processes (thermo-abrasion, rapid solifluction) was noted. Pavlov proposed to create a unified system of circumpolar monitoring of the Northern Hemisphere using automated measuring means and computer-aided technologies of collection, storage and processing of information. This information should be used for prediction of changes in frozen ground properties to improve construction projects.
A scenario of climate warming and prediction of changes of the West Siberian cryolithozone in the 21st century were discussed by V. Balobayev, using a computerized model of warming and thawing in accordance with the tables and maps of increasing temperatures of the ground surface during the 21st century for all West Siberia. Relict permafrost will continue to degrade. The southern border of permafrost will retreat 50-80 km by 2020 and 200 km by 2050. By the end of the 21st century frozen ground will only occur north of Yamal and Gydan.
In his paper "A Necessity to Take Into Account Global Climate Warming When Projecting Construction on Permafrost,"
L. Khrustalev stated that 54% to 100% of the buildings in the settlement of Tiksi would be destroyed by 2030 because of the expected climate warming. Monitoring of the permafrost zone in the Urengoi gas field (northern West Siberia) during 1975, 1976, 1980 and 1992-1994 (paper by D. Drozdov and others from VSEGINGEO titled "The Change of Engineering-Geocryological Conditions in Urengoi Mineral Deposits") showed that the more significant changes in the temperature of frozen ground were found in sites close to construction. Near pipeline embankments after 1975, the temperature of permafrost rose 2°-3°C and now is near 0°C. Along roads with undisturbed surfaces, the temperature of the ground rose up to 1.5°-2.0°C. Cryogenic processes there were also activated.
Dynamics of the littoral zone of Arctic seas and the present state-of-the-art and goals were presented in a paper by F. Are. Monitoring of the coastal zone dynamics and calculations showed rates of constant thermoabrasion of Arctic sea shores are conditioned mainly by a hydromechanical transfer of suspended sediments during strong storms. American investigators believe that sea ice is the principal agent of shelf erosion. Are believes that the drift ice in the Laptev Sea does not substantially influence the dynamics of the shoreline. The sludge ice, which is formed in large amounts during the winter storms, is a more effective agent of transfer than suspended sediment in the Laptev Sea. F. Are proposed to create a 1:50,000 scale map of the coastal dynamics, which will show eroded areas and land formation during the recent decades, rates of coastline movement, and magnitude of coastal erosion and sediment accumulation in the littoral zone.
Monitoring of the coastline at 60 points in the area of polar station Mare Saale (Yamal Peninsula, West Siberia) over 16 years showed that the mean rate of retreat of the shore is about 2 meters per year and 10 meters where the shores are composed of ice-rich sediments ("Thermoabrasion of the West Yamal Seacoast," V. Vassiliev.) Monitoring of the coastline in the area of the Lena River delta over 14 years (1981-1994) showed that during the last 10-20 years the rate of shoreline retreat was 10-25% less than the rates obtained by previous investigators during the preceding decades.
Adequate monitoring in the cryolithozone was emphasized in the paper "Remote Sounding for the Geocryological Substantiation of the Transcontinental Railway Project" (Siberia, Alaska), by V. Rasbegin and others. Forecasting the
impact on the environment and permafrost conditions and working out relevant recommendations can be solved by means of research and monitoring the cryolithozone.
Monitoring of permafrost begun in 1980 is carried out in five physicogeographical regions of Central Yakutia, as discussed in a paper by P. Skryabin and others entitled "Monitoring of the Ground Thermal Regime in Central Yakutia." The last  decade is characterized by a rise in air temperature of 0.7°C and by an increase in the thickness of the snow cover. The changes in the mean temperature of the ground at the top of permafrost are connected mostly with the variations of the air temperatures and the depth of summer thaw, with summer precipitation and a sum of air temperatures above O°C.
As reported by A. Federov, the monitoring data obtained in Central Yakutia show an increase of ground temperature at the 3.2 m depth of 15%. During the last 15-20 years we can see a significant rise in ground temperature because of climate warming.
The expected climate warming will give rise to thermokarst phenomena in central Yakutia, at sites where ice wedges
occur. The depth of alasses may be 15-20 m as reported in papers by N. Bosikov, "The Stability of Technogenic  Landscapes in Central Yakutia," and T. Botulu, "The Evaluation of Modern Conditions of the Landscapes with Ice Wedges
and Reaction to Climate Warming."
"Changes in Frozen Ground by Thermodenudation" was presented by V. Ostroumov. Physical and physicochemical  properties of frozen ground in the oxidation zone near thermoabrasion benches and alass formations in the Kolyma-
Indigirka lowlands were studied. Stationary oxidation zones are formed on stable slopes over 150-200 years. When characterizing the relationship of the oxidative transformation of the ground and thermodenudation intensity, it is assumed a linear character of transformation with time. The resulting relationship can be used to determine the rate of thermodenudation. The proposed approach makes it possible to determine the rates of thermoabrasion and the river bank regression by the data of a single determination of ground parameters in the oxidation zone.
The evaluation and control of icings in connection with global environmental climate changes were presented in a paper by V.Alekseev.The process of icing formation is important for engineering, prospecting and construction. To predict the evolution of icings one should make a modern cartographic evaluation of icing danger, determine the dependence of icing parameters on specific environmental and geocryohydrological conditions, and find methodological approaches to forecasting events in connection with the natural and man-affected evolution of the geocryogenic systems. Results of the investigations should be small-scale maps of the icing-rich area. The monitoring of icings should be organized to determine the changes in the ice field characteristics during the past 200-300 years. An international program for monitoring icing danger in the cryolithozone was proposed.

Prepared and submitted by Nikolai A. Grave