The Kazakhstan Alpine Geocryological Laboratory and the Permafrost Institute, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences are in the process of elaborating a map on “Geocryological Hazards in Kazakhstan” (scale 1:5000000). Natural and technogenic geocryological processes and phenomena are divided into three categories on a scale of “danger”: low danger, average danger and high danger.

A finding from this publication is that anthropological changes to the environment often induce the activation or the intensifying of geocryological processes and subsequent hazards. The occurrence of these features is generally strongly driven by local geographical characteristics. In mountainous areas, the degree of danger in some areas is determined not by the frequency of geocryological processes and phenomena, but by the dimension of the most significant ones, namely, glacial mud-flows, rock-glaciers down movement and cryogenic rockslides. All mountainous regions of Kazakhstan are also characterized by high seismic activity which adds to the likeliness of occurrence of major natural hazards.

The geothermal monitoring of seasonal frozen ground and permafrost in Zailiyskiy Alatau (Northern Tien Shan) is being continued. New results show that since the 2000-2001 period, temperatures have been further decreasing throughout the permafrost profile. The long winter and cool summer of 2008-2009 have caused the lowest depth of seasonal frozen layer (about 4 m) observed over the past 32 years of observations.

Other new results from different settings in the mountains of Northern Tien Shan confirmed that the depth and intensity of freezing depends not only on the severity and snowiness of the cold period, but also on the temperature of the ground before freezing and the relationship between the onset of freezing and the timing of the snow cover.

Evidence of crevasses in a rock glacier in the Uzynbulak river valley (Dzhungarskiy Alatau) was observed by the Kazakh researchers in 2009. The fast motion of the rock glacier is explained by powerful seismic collapse in the upper part of the valley it is located in. Sudden rock collapse on the rock glacier has caused a sharp increase in the plasticity of the frozen matrix and led to the increase of the motion speed. As a result, the rock glacier has moved downwards along the Uzynbulak river valley by more than 2 km.

Data on morphology, genesis, dynamics and evolution of rock-glaciers from Asia, America, Greenland and Antarctica was summarized in the journal «Cryosphere of the Earth» (#2, #3, 2008).

Akhmetkal Medeu, Aldar Gorbunov and Eduard Severskiy (ingeo@mail.kz).