The U.S. Permafrost Association (USPA) was offi cially established in 2001 to better enable U.S. scientists to contribute to the International Permafrost Association and to promote permafrost science and engineering in the U.S. During the past year membership has grown to over 130 individual, corporate, and institutional members, the constitution and bylaws were approved, and elections were held. Douglas Kane was elected as the Association’s fi rst president.
The annual meeting was held at the AGU Fall meeting in San Francisco in December 2002. Discussions included U.S. participation in the Zurich conference, and how best to promote permafrost activities in the U.S. The following contains individual reports of many USPA members and organizations
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering (TCCRE) held the 11th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering in Anchorage, Alaska, 20-22 May, 2002. There were over 230 attendees participating in 32 technical sessions. Seventy papers were published in the conference proceedings. The theme of the conference was “Cold Regions Impacts on Transportation and Infrastructure”. Eleven papers and 4 technical sessions focused on the performance of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) after 28 years of operation. During the conference awards luncheon, Jim Rooney delivered the Eb Rice Memorial Lecture, Bucky Tart received Harold R. Peyton Award for Cold Regions Engineering, and Norbert Morgenstern was awarded the CAN-AM Amity Award. The Peyton recipient was also recognized during the 150th anniversary celebration of the ASCE that was held in Washington, DC, 3-7 November, 2002. The 12th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering will be held 16-19 May, 2004 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and will be co-sponsored by TCCRE and the Cold Regions Engineering Division of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering. The 13th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering is being planned for Bangor, Maine in June or July 2006.
During 2002 the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (US ARC) organized a task force on Climate Change, Permafrost and Infrastructure Impacts. The objective was to identify key issues and research needs to foster an understanding of global change impacts on permafrost in the Arctic and their relevance to natural and human systems. The task force fi ndings include: requirements for a dedicated, visible U.S. permafrost research programme, data management needs, baseline permafrost mapping requirements in Alaska, basic permafrost research focused on process studies and modeling, and, applied permafrost research on design criteria and contaminants in permafrost environments. The report will be available from the Commission in Spring 2003.
The U.S. National Science Foundation supports several programmes and numerous projects that examine permafrost dynamics and infl uence on ecosystem processes and their response to climatic variability. Larry Hinzman (University of Alaska Fairbanks) reports on the organization and funding of a new NSF program that has a substantial permafrostoriented involvement: The Hydrologic Cycle and its Role in Arctic and Global Environmental Change: A Rationale and Strategy for Synthesis Study (CHAMP). The primary aim of CHAMP is to catalyze and coordinate interdisciplinary research with the goal of constructing a holistic understanding of arctic hydrology through integration of routine observations, processbased fi eld studies, and modeling. A number of projects were funded starting in summer 2002. The CHAMP strategy is available on the internet (see address at end of report). F. Stuart Chapin (University of Alaska Fairbanks) reports that the NSF-funded Arctic Transitions in the Land- Atmosphere System (ATLAS), a coordinated programme to examine the geographical patterns and controls over climate-land surface exchange and develop reasonable scenarios of future change in the Arctic, is in its fi nal synthesis stage.
News from individual projects include the following highlights with details available on the USPA web site: NSF-LTER studies by Tom Osterkamp, Vladimir Romanovsky and Kenji Yoshikawa (University of Alaska Fairbanks) at the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest and Caribou Poker Creeks Research Watershed (CPCRW) documented warming and degradation of permafrost over the last 20 to 80 years. Larry Hinzman, Douglas Kane and Kenji Yoshikawa continued their investigations in CPCRW and on the Seward Peninsula that relate changes in hydrologic processes and permafrost to climatic dynamics. Graduate dissertations by Kevin Petrone and William Bolton demonstrated the strong controls of permafrost extent upon hydrologic processes (basefl ow, peak discharge, recession rates) and chemical exports (NO3, DOC, and essential cations). Kane and Hinzman have upgraded the remote meteorological and hydrological stations operated by the UAF Water and Environmental Research Center to provide near-real time continuous monitoring of fi eld conditions via the internet.
Several NSF-sponsored projects led by Kenneth Hinkel (University of Cincinnati) and Frederick Nelson and Nikolai Shiklomanov (University of Delaware) in northern Alaska include observations on the infl uence of enhanced snow accumulation on seasonal thaw, assessment of an urban heat island at Barrow, measurements of regional active layer thicknesses as part of the CALM network, and seasonal and long-term measurements of heave and settlement using DGPS. In 2002, average thaw depth at Foothills sites were substantially reduced compared to the period of record (1995-present) and sites on the coastal plain although low, were slightly higher than in 2001. An international CALM workshop was held in Lewes, Delaware in November 2002, to develop a synthesis of the fi ve-year programme. A special issue of Polar Geography contains data and information on over 100 CALM sites from the 15 investigating countries. Several papers were published with Oleg Anisimov (Russia) concerned with the possible effects of thawing permafrost on human infrastructure, and on demonstrating the utility of stochastic modeling as an alternative method of mapping geocryological parameters. A joint project with Ron Paetzold, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, is investigating the variability of the surface energy balance and shallow ground thermal regime in different landscape units at Prudhoe Bay.
Wendy Eisner (University of Cincinnati) and Jim Bockheim (University of Wisconsin) continued a programme of intensive spring and summer coring and survey of drained thaw-lake basins from Barrow inland to Atqasuk.
Tom Osterkamp (Geophysical Institute), reports that this year marks the twenty-fi fth anniversary of the beginning of a series of 25- station permafrost observatory along the northsouth transect of Alaska stretching some 1200 km between Prudhoe Bay and Glenallen.
These observations continue as part of the project to investigate the infl uence of climate and environmental factors on the thermal and moisture regimes of the active layer and permafrost in Alaska. Additional sites have been established in outlying areas to help create a statewide picture of permafrost conditions and their changes.
In April 2002, Vladimir Romanovsky and Kenji Yoshikawa (University of Alaska Fairbanks), and Jerry Brown, added two, 45-meter boreholes to the Barrow Permafrost Observatory, and in August installed two 1-meter thermistor probes (see web site). Initial results of this IARCsupported borehole programme appeared in Eos. Vladimir Romanovsky with colleagues Tatiana Sazonova, Dmitrii Sergueev, and Gennadii Tipenko at the Geophysical Institute have produced a synthesis of environmental data along an east Siberian transect and a comparison of active layer and permafrost conditions with an Alaskan transect.
A report by Brown and Torre Jorgenson (ABR, Inc) on the carbon loss due to coastal erosion was presented at the Arctic Coastal Dynamic (ACD) workshop in Oslo. The estimates of carbon loss were developed from the two key ACD sites on the U.S. Beaufort Sea coast. The 14 erosion transects from the Barrow Elson Lagoon key site were remeasured in August and only minor changes were noted since summer 2001 (project led by Brown and Orson Smith, University of Alaska Anchorage).
Torre Jorgenson and Erik Pullman (ABR, Inc.) with Yuri Shur (University of Alaska) are conducting studies in the eastern portion of the NPR-A supported by Conoco Phillips Alaska. The project is designed to (1) determine the nature, magnitude, and distribution of ground ice in relation to terrain units, (2) evaluate potential thaw settlement from surface disturbance, and (3) develop a conceptual model of how ground ice develops in relation to lake basin development. Data are collected on soil carbon stores within the upper 2.5 m of the permafrost.
Skip Walker (University of Alaska Fairbanks) is leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers in fi eld observations and experiments to validate a model of frost-boil formation and its relevance to climate change. Twelve Alaskan sites are located along a climate gradient from Happy Valley in the Arctic Foothills to Howe Island in the Delta of the Sagavanirktok River on the Beaufort Sea coast. Site visits along a transect from Inuvik on the Mackenzie River to Satellite Bay on Prince Patrick Island (Canada) and along the Kolyma River (Northeast Russia) were conducted in summer 2002. The project is also linked to the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Mapping project.
A number of activities are on-going at the at the National Snow and Ice Data Center/ WDC for Glaciology, University of Colorado. Mark Parsons and Tingjun Zhang, are leading the IARC-funded Global Geocryological Database (GGD) activity to produce Version II of the CAPS CD-ROM in cooperation with the IPA. The IARC-supported Frozen Ground Data Center has been established to improve access to existing data through online searching, ordering, and availability in the Global Change Master Directory. Christoph Oekle, in collaboration with Zhang, Mark Serreze, and Richard Armstrong, has developed a regional model of soil freeze/thaw at a 25 x 25 km resolution and daily time steps for the period September 1998 through December 2000. Feng Ling and Zhang have developed a numerical simulation to model the permafrost thermal regime and talik formation under shallow thaw lakes in the Alaskan Arctic. Zhang with Serreze, Roger Barry, and David Gilichinsky (Russia) are continuing their analysis of the historical soil temperature measurements in the Russian Arctic and Subarctic.
Ron Sletten and Bernard Hallet (University of Washington) are currently involved in projects in both the Arctic and Antarctic and include: the biocomplexity of carbon cycling (Thule, Greenland); weathering studies (Zackenberg and sites in southwest Greenland); and diffusion of heavy metals contaminants at study sites in Alaska. In the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, they are examining the dynamics and evolution of contraction crack polygons, the motion of rock glaciers, the formation of infl ational soils, and other geomorphic processes. Surface velocities along the centerline of the rock glacier of 20 to 40 mm/yr, are based on differential GPS and Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry measurements. This research is focussed in Beacon Valley where the oldest ice on Earth has been reported, and where there are some of the best terrestrial analogs for investigating the stability of subsurface ice and periglacial processes on Mars.
Nicole Mölders and John E. Walsh (University of Alaska Fairbanks), supported by IARC, are investigating the roles of highlatitude terrestrial variables and processes (e.g., permafrost, soil freezing and thawing, snow, interaction of soil moisture and soil temperature states) in the context of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Simulations with and without consideration of soil frost processes are being performed to examine the infl uence of permafrost on the regional weather in Alaska. The inclusion of soil frost processes leads to altered fl uxes of heat and water to the atmosphere, which modify the cloud and precipitation formation on the local scale.
Gary Clow, USGS, relogged a number of deep boreholes in northern Alaska and downloaded data measuring active layer temperatures, air temperatures, snow depth, and solar radiation. These deep drill holes showed signifi cant warming during the 1990s.
Tim Collett (USGS) reports that the multi-national 2002 Mallik gas hydrate research programme, located in the Mackenzie Delta region, resulted in the recovery of a large number of gas hydrate samples from below the 640 m deep permafrost section at depths of between 890 m and 1150 m. Other aspects of the Geological Survey of Canada lead project consisted of well logging, obtaining down-hole temperature profi les, microbiologic studies, seismic cross-hole tomography, and the fi rst modern production tests of a gas hydrate reservoir involving both pressure draw down and thermal stimulation.
Kathleen A. McCarthy (USGS) has been investigating the movement of free-phase petroleum hydrocarbons in the subsurface at a site near Barrow, Alaska. Hydrocarbons from surface spills have migrated well below the permafrost table, most likely through fractures in the frozen sandy gravel.
Erk Reimnitz (retired USGS) is analyzing the shape of shorefaces from the arctic coastlines of North America and Siberia. The shape may be controlled by the action of fl oating ice ranging in size or extent from continuous sheets down to small fl oes and even individual ice crystals; processes that differ from those in lower latitude, ice-free coastlines.
Matthew Sturm (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory) has developed a statistical model that can be used to predict the temperature of the snow-ground interface over a large region. The model, based on measurements made in the Kuparuk Basin, is simple and emphasizes the importance of snow in controlling permafrost temperatures and active layer thickness.
H.J. Walker reported on the history of the Louisiana University arctic coastal and permafrost research in the Spring 2002 issue of Witness the Arctic. An unabridged version of this overview is available on the ARCUS web site. Also, just published in the book Landscapes of Transition, edited by K. Hewitt et al. and published by Kluwer in 2002, is the paper “Landform development in an arctic delta: the roles of snow, ice and permafrost”.
Alexandre Tsapin and G. McDonald (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) are using amino acid racemization and radiocarbon dating to investigate the metabolic activity of “dormant” microorganisms in northern Siberian permafrost. Viable bacteria have been cultured from millionyear- old Siberian permafrost, but the relationship between the age of the bacteria and the age of the sediments remains uncertain.
Bucky Tart reports that Golder Associates, Anchorage, hase been involved in numerous permafrost engineering projects throughout Alaska and in the Former Soviet Union. The major project has been the permafrost geotechnical consultation for the Trans Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) during and since pipeline construction. Other projects involve frost heave concerns for pavements in Anchorage, and slope stability issues in permafrost for various pipeline locations, highways, and mines.
Buzz Scher and Charlie Riddle, R&M Consultants, Anchorage, report on two rural airport projects. The Tetlin runway involves a thermal design to avoid settlement of the aggregate surfaced runway that is built over variable ice-rich and ice-poor permafrost. The Kotzebue airport design requires removal of a hill composed of ice-rich silt without sedimentation into the adjacent lagoon.
Dave Norton, an Anchorage-based consulting engineer working for the owners of the Trans Alaska pipeline, reports that permafrost engineering was a focus of interest during the process to renew the Trans Alaska Pipeline rightsof- way (ROW). The pipeline began operation in 1977. In 2002 the Bureau of Land Management prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluated renewal of the ROW for an additional 30 years. Changing conditions along the ROW, primarily permafrost degradation, were among the key points of investigation. The EIS determined that the pipeline and the permafrost regime near it had reached thermal equilibrium in most cases. Areas that exhibit continued permafrost degradation are addressed by built-in support adjustments and normal maintenance.
Thomas Berglin and Ed Clarke (Soils Alaska PC, Fairbanks) report that they are undertaking a testing programme on the thaw stability and sampling procedures for both fi negrained (micaceous silt) and coarse-grained (very sandy gravel) soils of interior Alaska. Clarke attended the Fifth International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering in Yakutsk, Russia, and exchanged experiences with Russian and Chinese researchers on foundation construction techniques on frozen granular soils.
Hannele Zubeck and He Liu (University of Alaska Anchorage) are modeling the use of helical piles to increase pile capacity in permafrost soils.
Several groups lead by Vladimir Aizen (University of Idaho), are monitoring watersheds in the Salmon River basin (Rocky Mountains, U.S.A.) and Narin River basin (Akshiyrak Mt. Massif, Kyrgyzstan) by measuring meteorological, hydrological, borehole temperatures, heat balance and snow pack parameters, and aqueous geochemistry within nested watersheds to evaluate the role and long-term changes of water balance components.
William J. Wayne, University of Nebraska, reports on his continuing studies of periglacial sand wedges and sheet sand in Nebraska, and on relict patterned ground in the Snowy Range, Wyoming.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) supports two technical areas that are of interest to cold regions engineers – the Heat Transfer Division’s K-18 Committee that focuses on low temperature heat transfer and the Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering Division (OOAE) that sponsors the annual Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering (OMAE) conference. The 22nd Conference (OMAE 2003) will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from June 8 to 13, 2003, and includes the Polar & Arctic Sciences & Technology Symposium.
Finally, we regret to note the death of Duwayne M. Anderson in October; a pioneer in the research on unfrozen water and ice segregation.
Web: ARCSS: www.nsf.gov/od/opp/arctic/system.htm; ARCUS: www.arcus.org; ATLAS: www.laii.uaf.edu/ATLAS/atlas.cfm.Barrow; Obs: iarc.uaf.edu/barrow_permafrost.html; CALM: www.geography.uc.edu/~kenhinke/CALM/; CHAMP: www.arcus.org/ARCSS/hydro/index.html; EIS: www.tapsrenewal.jpo.doi.gov/ Frost boils: www.geobotany.uaf.edu/ cryoturbation.index.html; Frozen Ground: nsidc.org/frozenground/; HARC: www.arcus.org/HARC/index.html; ITEX: www.systbot.gu.se/research/itex/itex.html; Met network: www.uaf.edu/water/projects/ NorthSlope/northslope.html; RAISE: www.raise.uaf.edu/; Siberia transect: www.gi.alaska.edu/snowice/ Permafrost-lab/proj_trans/pr_trans.html; US ARC: www.arctic.gov; USPA: www.uspermafrost.org