Field investigations were conducted over the Russian permafrost territory including the Northeast, Yakutia, northern West Siberia, Zabaikalye, Sakhalin, Primorye and the European North. They mostly involved surveys for large investment projects related to pipeline construction and mining operations.
Geochemical and permafrost ecological research was undertaken on Yamal peninsula and along the lower reaches of Yenisei and Pechora rivers by the Production and Research Institute for Engineering Construction Survey, Permafrost Institute (SB RAS), Institute of the Earth Cryosphere (SB RAS), Moscow State University, and others.
Measurements of borehole temperatures, frost heaving, thermokarst settlements, thermoerosion, characteristics of groundwater regime, and meteorological parameters continued at permafrost stations. Continuous instrumental observations have been supported for more than 25 years at Vorkuta, Nadym, Marre-Sale and Yakutsk. The Permafrost Institute established a new permafrost station on the Selenga River delta for the study of seasonally and perennially frozen ground. The data will be used to develop the river-delta model as a natural biological filter for the Lake Baikal ecosystem.
The efforts of many researchers and organisations were concentrated on the Global Change problem. The University of Colorado and the Institute of Physical-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science analyzed trends of the air and ground temperatures for the Russian territory from 242 meteorological stations. The permafrost response to the climate changes is essentially distinct in different regions. As a result of “MIRECO” programme it was revealed that from 1970 to 1995, the permafrost table was disconnected from the active layer bottom within vast areas of discontinuous permafrost zone. Many Russian geocryologists are inclined to consider contemporary warming as a phenomenon provoked mainly by natural causes rather than human impact (V.T. Balobayev, A.D. Douchkov, A.V. Pavlov, N.I. Shender, and N.A. Shpolyanskaya). There is agreement that the rapid degradation of continuous permafrost is exaggerated. Specialists of the Institute of the Earth Cryosphere negate the possibility of the degradation of continuous permafrost during next 50 years.
Russian permafrost specialists were engaged in joint investigations with colleagues from Canada (Department of Agriculture), Germany, Japan (Hokkaido University), Norway (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute), United States (University of Colorado) and others. During the past year Russian researchers participated in the following international and joint activities:
•The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) programme.
•Arctic Coastal Dynamics, the Laptev Sea System, and the Dynamics of Laptev Sea Cryolithozone.
• Completion of the international programme “SPICE– Sustainable Development of Pechora Region” in close corporation with MIRECO (former Polar Ural Geology).
A new project “Permafrost and Climate in Asia” was proposed for consideration by international sponsors. It proposes to concentrate investigations on two transects across different types of the cryolithozone: Russia-China-Japan and Russia-Kazakhstan-China.
As in preceding years the studies of the offshore-onshore permafrost of the Russian Arctic were conducted principally together with German scientists. New knowledge was obtained on the following topics:
• The evolution of the offshore permafrost and gas hydrate stability zone on the shelf of Eastern Siberia during Pleistocene and Holocene (Hans-W. Hubberten, N.N. Romanovskii and others).
•The cryogenic morphology of Quaternary deposits and sea coast abrasion in the central part of Yamal peninsula coast (A.A. Vasiliev, M.Z. Kanevsky).
•The dynamics of the coastal zone adjacent to the Lena River delta, and the recession rate of the thermoabrasive shores of the Laptev sea (F.E. Are and others).
In the course of regional, theoretical and experimental research, new results were obtained as follows:
• Scientists of the Department of Cryolithology and Glaciology (MSU) analyzed the main permafrost types according to the landscape structure and estimated the risk of cryogenic hazards in oil- and gas-producing areas.
•The famous 2002 Kolka Glacier catastrophe was examined and the intensity of contemporary thermokarst subsidence was estimated following glacier descent.
• L.S. Garagoulya (Department of Geocryology, MSU) confirmed the assumption that short-period climatic cycles most likely induce thermokarst subsidence under marine climate conditions.
Among important studies conducted in the Permafrost Institute were:
•Analysis of chemical composition of atmospheric gases and aerosols for sites with different conditions of climate and human influence.
•Detailed thermal and water balance observations were performed at the Upper Kolyma plateau during the last five years; thus establishing the main peculiarities of pore ice formation and melting in the coarse-grained slope deposits.
•Computer modelling demonstrated the dependence of the floodplain taliks size upon such natural factors as permeability, path distance gradient of the flow, temperature of river water and ground surface, and rate of lateral erosion.
• Based on drilling from the sea ice at sites 0.4–1.3 km from the shoreline, the top of the permafrost table was located at depths 2–17 m below the sea bottom. The rate of thawing of subsea permafrost is very high; up to 0.1 m/year.
A number of works were directed toward the development of permafrost mapping. The Production and Research Institute for Engineering Construction Survey developed a new mapping method using a matrix system of permafrost conditions. On the basis of field research, a digital maps series was prepared for promising regions of oil and gas development. Several special maps were completed that allow the estimation of the risks of development on the Russian Arctic shoreline (M.M. Koreisha, F.M. Rivkin, and N.V. Ivanova). Map model systems were improved and digital maps with accompanying databases were drawn for the Norilsk industrial region and some oil and gas fields in the north of West Siberia (D.S. Drozdov, Institute of the Earth Cryosphere).
The Department of Geography (MSU) prepared a series of cryo-ecological maps for the European North and Western Siberia. Progress was achieved in the studies of physicochemical processes in frozen ground. In the Department of Geology (MSU), new experimental data on the ice and gas-hydrates formation were obtained for the soils with various salinity. The speed of longitudinal waves as a function of lithology was determined on the frozen ground samples that contain gas hydrates (Cheverev, Chouvilin, Ershov, and Zykov). Thermal characteristics of the frozen soils were established based on the degree of contamination by petroleum products (Ershov, Motenko). Criteria were developed for determining the limits of the plasticity of frozen ground containing high salinity. New data were obtained on unfrozen water migration in a shear zone (Roman). The team from the Permafrost Institute’s Chita laboratory studied the influence of freezing–thawing cycles on composition, structure and properties of gold-bearing deposits. Thermal properties of segregated ice were investigated under laboratory conditions (Grechishchev and others, Institute of Earth Cryosphere).
Research on the lithogenesis under permafrost conditions received further development in research of the Geography Department (MSU). The role of cryogenesis in the soil forming over the territory of modern and Pleistocene permafrost was investigated. New data were obtained on the isotope and chemical composition of surface and ground ice from the Polar Urals and Bolshezemelskaya tundra.
The Institute of Northern Mining Problems (SB RAS) developed the software for determination of the ice-cover thickness. The non-contact, georadar method was developed for measuring rates of about 20 km/h with an error not exceeding 3%. Successful tests were performed during high water on the Lena and Aldan rivers.
S.V. Alekseev (Institute of the Earth Crust, SB RAS) obtained new data on the permafrost of Yakut diamond province.
Experimental research established that in the early stage of induced polarization various types of frozen ground are characterised by either normal or abnormal values of apparent polarisation. As a result, the boundaries between different engineering geological elements during the geocryological survey in the Chita-Ingoda depression can be determined.
Important work was done on the problems of engineering geocryology. Computer modelling was carried out on the temperature fields formed around cooling underground storage of radioactive wastes (Department of Geocrylogy, MSU). Creating artificial frozen barriers can prevent the migration of radionuclides under temperate climate conditions. For the warm cryolithozone in the city of Chita recommendations were developed on stage-by-stage transfer of deformed buildings from pile foundations onto strip foundations without keeping the ground in the frozen state. This has helped to stop the buildings from subsiding (Chita’s Laboratory of Permafrost Engineering). Department of Cryolithology and Glaciology (MSU) has drawn the map of activity of cryogenic processes in the urbanized territories at the scale 1:15,000,000. It is based upon permafrost zonation according to the type and strength properties of the ground as well as temperature conditions. Population and time of settlement are taken into account and the main cryogenic hazards are determined.
Research on planetary cryology continued. Estimates were made that 15% of the Mars surface is covered with permafrost (Mitrofanov, Institute of Space Research, RAS). At Moscow State University the new version of a geologicstructural map of Mars at the scale 1:50,000,000 was prepared and pilot calculations on the size of frost-crack polygons were made (Ershov, Komarov).
The International Conference on Earth Cryosphere as an Object for Nature Management was held in Pushchino, May 25–28, 2003. It was dedicated to the memory Academician P.I. Melnikov on the 95th anniversary of his birth. Scientists from Canada, Germany, Japan, Russia and several other countries took part. The following problems were considered: nature management in arctic and subarctic regions; heat and mass transfer in cryolithozone complexes, the extreme phenomena and natural hazards in cold regions; problems of cryosphere biology; medical and social aspects of habitation in the North; cryofacial analysis and cryoindicators; physico-chemistry and geophysics of cryogenic phenomena; shelf and coastal permafrost in the Arctic. Lively discussions were induced by use of geocryological parameters (temperature at the top of permafrost horizons, the active layer thickness etc.) as the indicators of modern climate change (Anisimov, Kakunov, Malkova, Pavlov, Vasiljev). The discussions emphasised the need to develop additional research.
Russian permafrost scientists participated in 8th ICOP. Thanks to financial support from the Swiss organizing committee the Russian delegation was one of the most numerous with 43 participants including 10 students.
The World Conference on Climate Change took place in Moscow in September 29–October 3. Russian President Putin made the opening speech. He emphasized that Russia will subscribe to the Kyoto treaty based on the trustworthiness of scientific conclusions about global warming and its consequences. Considerable attention at the conference was given to discussion of permafrost response to contemporary climate change.
The Department of Geography at MSU held a scientific seminar and meeting in June devoted to memory of A.I. Popov in connection with his 90th birthday.
Monographs have been prepared as follows:
- Geocryological Conditions Kharasavey and Kruzenshtern Gas Condensate Fields (Yamal peninsula), editor-in- chief Professor V.V. Baulin, was published.
- Ecogeology of the European North of Russia (Republic Komi, East Part of Nenets National Region) by N.G. Oberman, I.G. Shesler and A.I. Rubtsov is accompanied by two ecogeological maps at scale 1:1,000,000 and geochemical catalogues.
- Prospects for Steady Development of the North: Habitation in Modern Conditions by the Research Institute of Foundations and Underground Structures. Geocryological Glossary, editors V.V. Baulin and V.E. Murzaeva, Research Institute for Engineering Site Investigations (PNISS) (email@example.com).
- A special issue of the journal Earth Cryosphere was produced in English for 8th ICOP. Preparation for editing an English version of the journal on a continuous basis is under consideration (see Publications, p.42)
At the end of May the Russian permafrost community celebrated the 50th anniversary of Geocryology Department, Moscow State University; one of the main centers for preparing specialists in permafrost science and engineering.
Finally, we would like to mention the 70th birthdays of two well-known scientists: Dr. V.R. Alekseev (Institute of Geography, SB RAS) and Dr. L.N. Khrustalyov (Moscow State University) who are cordially congratulated by their colleagues.
A.V. Pavlov and G.Z. Perlshtein (firstname.lastname@example.org)