FROSTFIRE, a wildfire research project in the boreal forest near Fairbanks, Alaska, was ignited in Caribou Poker Creeks Research Watershed (CPCRW) in July 1999. The Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service, at the request of the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted the 900-acre controlled burn. Research groups from the U.S., Canada, and Japan are studying fire behaviour and effects on climate and boreal ecosystems. The fire burned about 90 percent of the black spruce in the 2,000-acre research area as it raced through stands of black spruce and feather moss, but moved more slowly and with less intensity in hardwoods and sphagnum moss. Background data on pre-fire conditions were collected over the last two years and now numerous investigations will focus upon fire impacts, permafrost degradation and vegetation recovery.
A second programme in CPCRW, the YuWEx (Yukon Water and Energy Experiment) project, is a collaborative research activity among several Japanese and U.S. scientists. Studies of interactive processes associated with hydrologic and climatic dynamics in the discontinuous permafrost area of the Yukon River uplands are underway to improve our understanding of land surface processes and potential impacts of climatic change in a region of discontinuous permafrost. Permafrost research continues as part of the ATLAS programme (Arctic Transitions in the Land/Atmosphere System), a research programme sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s ARCSS (Arctic System Science) programme. The goals of the research are to develop a more complete understanding of the responses of arctic ecosystems to a changing climate, to determine the geographical patterns and controls over climate-land surface exchanges (mass and energy), and to develop scenarios of future change in the Arctic system. This fiveyear programme includes numerous investigations of active layer dynamics and permafrost response to climatic change. The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) network is part of ATLAS.
A second NSF programme ‘Russian -American Initiative on Shelf-Land Environments in the Arctic (RAISE)’ sponsored a 3-day workshop on Arctic Coastal Dynamics. Rates of erosion of ice-rich, land-based permafrost, the dynamics of subsea permafrost, and sedimentary processes along the coastlines were reviewed and available information synthesised. In the Antarctic, a joint US-Russian team cored permafrost in Beacon Valley to study sand/ice wedge polygons, their initiation and growth, and their effect on land surface stability. This University of Washington led team recovered a 20-m core that may contain the earth’s oldest preserved ice. Observations include physical, chemical and microbial characteristics of the core along with borehole ground temperatures. A NASA collaborator is modelling ground-ice dynamics as the Beacon Valley is considered to be one of the best terrestrial analogs for the study of Martian soils. Gary Clow reports that the U.S. Geological Survey continues its borehole measurements in Greenland, Antarctic, and Alaska. The primary goals of the Survey Borehole Paleothermometry Programme are to reconstruct surface temperatures in the polar regions for the last 40 ka and to improve our understanding of the thermal conditions within the permafrost that underlies the polar ice sheets.
The ASCE Technical Council on Cold Regions (TCCRE) held its 10th International Conference on Cold Regions in Lincoln, New Hampshire, August 16-19, 1999. The conference, entitled Putting Research into Practice, was represented by Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Eighty-six papers were presented in 26 sessions. The technical and administrative committees of TCCRE met. Bucky Tart reported on the Yellowknife conference and announced the forthcoming International Workshop on Permafrost Engineering in Svalbard and the permafrost conference in Switzerland. TCCRE expressed interest in developing engineering sessions for the 2003 conference. Ted Vinson reported on the ISCORD conference held in Tasmania. Bill Lovell, Jr., former U.S. representative to IPA, was presented the Hal Peyton Award, the prestigious ASCE cold regions engineering award. Steve Grant and Giles Marion, CRREL, and Ron Sletten, University of Washington, organised a special session on unfrozen water for the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco, December 1999. The Cryosphere Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers sponsored several sessions at the AAG annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, in April 1999. As noted elsewhere, the Troy Péwé Climatic Change Permafrost Reserve, located in Fairbanks, Alaska, was dedicated on September 18, 1999.
Jerry Brown (email@example.com) and Larry Hinzman (ffldh@ aurora.alaska.edu)