A meeting of the International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission on Climatic Changes and Periglacial Environments was held on August 19, 2004 during the IGU Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.

The meeting was organized by Julian Murton and attended by some 30 participants, including speakers from the U.S.A., South Africa, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Germany, Belgium and the U.K.. The theme of the meeting was “Climatic Impacts on Periglacial Environments.” It began with an excellent keynote lecture by Fritz Nelson (University of Delaware, U.S.A.) on climatic warming and its impacts in highlatitude permafrost regions. This was the last meeting of the IGU ‘periglacial’ commission, which has promoted periglacial research for the past 55 years. Jef Vandenberghe (Chair of this commission; Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) thanked the participants and welcomed Martin Gude and Christer Jonasson as co-chairs of the newly-approved IGU commission on Cold Regions Environments.

A new series of physical modelling experiments, led by Charles Harris and funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), is currently being set up at the CNRS Centre de Géomorpologie, Caen, France. The experiments will simulate and monitor solifluction processes and rates in a cold active layer compared with seasonally frozen ground in non-permafrost terrain. This work involves collaboration between the universities of Cardiff (C. Harris), Dundee (M. Davies), Sussex (J. Murton) and Caen (M. Font, J-C. Ozouf).

Another large-scale laboratory modelling study in the Caen cold rooms, also funded by the NERC, concerns bedrock fracture by ice segregation. The study, led by Julian Murton, is currently determining behaviour of porous bedrock (a variety of sandstones and limestones) to one-sided freezing (seasonal frost) and two-sided freezing (permafrost). The overall objective is to acquire data for testing a numerical model of rock fracture by growth of segregated ice. Collaborators on this research are from the universities of Sussex (J. Murton), Caen (J-C. Ozouf, J-P. Coutard), and Alaska at Fairbanks (R. Peterson).

Field investigations of contemporary frost action are being undertaken on the mountains of northern England by the University of Durham. Jeff Warburton has developed a simple time series model to predict the ground thermal regime of a sorted stripe field from air temperature data.

The initial results have been useful in developing a second field programme in the Northern Lake District that will refine the thermal regime model and look more closely at the temperature interactions between fine and coarse stripes. Continuous recording of fine stripe heave using a non-contact sensor will provide data to examine the relationship between frost action and soil thermal conditions.

A second study in the Lake District by Jeff Warburton and collaborator Richard Johnson (University of Central Lancashire) is also underway to investigate the post-wildfire effects of frost on the breakdown of bare, crusted soils. This NERC funded project will use laboratory simulation experiments to determine rates of crust breakdown under different freeze-thaw conditions.

Julian Murton (j.b.murton@sussex.ac.uk)