Observations of the dynamics of cryogenic processes (frost heaving and solifluction) at special polygons and geothermal monitoring of permafrost and seasonally frozen ground in Zailiysky Alatau Range (Northern Tien Shan) and adjoining plains are continuing.
An analysis of climatological data from high-mountain weather stations situated in the Northern Tien Shan for the last 120 years has been undertaken. An increase in annual, summer and winter air temperatures at various altitudes is indicated. An increase in mean annual temperature of 2.1°C for 1880–1996 is observed. This increase in air temperature is accompanied by other climatic effects such as glacier degradation, warming of alpine permafrost, and an increase in the movement rate of rock glaciers.

A rising trend is seen in permafrost temperature during 1974–97 of 0.2–0.3°C under natural conditions and up to 0.6°C in areas of human activity. Active layer thickness increased an average of 30%.
Numerical modeling shows that a rise in mean annual temperature of 2.5°C may lead to an increase in the absolute altitude of the lower permafrost boundary of 200–250 m.
On this basis a Predictive Map of Permafrost Distribution in Central Northern Tien Shan has been compiled at 1:200,000. Current research includes:


  • Monitoring of the thermal regime of permafrost, seasonally frozen ground, active layer thickness, dynamics of rock glaciers
  • Modeling of mountain permafrost in connection with climate changes
  • Role of regional and local factors in the extent of perennial and seasonal freezing
  • Geocryological mapping—various scales and purposes
  • Needle ice and its influence on a soil–vegetative cover
  • Role of cryogenic and post-cryogenic processes in mud-flow origin
  • Investigations of short-term permafrost conditions (pereletok) in the mountains and plains of Kazakstan
  • Creation of an electronic map of glaciers (aerial data of 1954, 1979, 1990) and permafrost distribution in the Northern Tien Shan (scale 1:200,000) in cooperation with Kazak glaciologists
  • The CALM observations continue. Prospective research for interested investigators includes:
  • Modeling and automated mapping of mountain permafrost in Asia
  • Determination of age and rate of creation of cryogenic forms (rock glaciers, thufur, solifluction terraces and lobes, patterned ground)
  • Investigation of cryogenic deformation (cryoturbation, frost fracturing, solifluction), and influence of pedogenic carbon concentration
  • Subglacial permafrost investigations
  • Influence of blocks of porous material on the thermal state of ground and associated processes (evaporation, ice formation, etc.)

A.P. Gorbunov and S.S. Marchenko (ingeo@kazmail.asdc.kz)