In 2009, the research of Russian geocryologists has focused on the exploration of the spatial and temporal characteristics of the cryosphere, on the inhomogeneous reaction of the cryosphere to global and regional climate change, and on the geoecological and the engineering-cryolithological peculiarities of the northern regions. A series of basic research projects are carried out on the following issues: “Cryosphere as life support and biodiversity conservation environment”, “Evolution of cryosphere in conditions of varying climate”, “Permafrost of the Arctic seas and the continental margins of the Western sector of Eurasia: assessment of the contemporary state, characteristics of the dynamics, geocryological history, transformation of frozen and cryotic rocks, hydrocarbon emanation”, “Permafrost and Arctic shelf in conditions of the varying climate, ecosystem stability and gas-hydrates, processes of organic matter disposal” (ECI SB RAS).

Mass settling of the permafrost table at the depth of zero annual amplitude has been observed and verified by drilling and seismic investigations (microseismics) in the western Siberian forest-tundra. Over a period of 25-30 years, the pre-tundra light forest has moved approximately 30-40 km northward (ECI SB RAS).

Researchers at Moscow State University demonstrated that the change in a number of permafrost characteristics under climate warming conditions is determined by the aggregation of features and components of the landscape changing under climate warming. Changes of the permafrost characteristics of the aggradational type (decrease and stabilization of the permafrost temperature, diminishing of the seasonal thawing layer, ice enrichment of permafrost upper horizons) are observed in certain landscape conditions against the background of degradational trends (increase of the permafrost temperature, extension of the talik’s area) (MSU, Geographical Department).

Monitoring of permafrost parameters (rock temperature and active layer depth) have been continued at the steady-state-stations in the framework of Russian and International IPY projects: Thermal state of permafrost, Arctic monitoring of active layer, Dynamics of the Arctic coasts, Change of vegetation cover. At the anthropologically-disturbed sites of Nadym and Urengoy steady-state-stations the network with long series of observations on ground temperature has been renewed (ECI SB RAS).

Results on changes in ground temperature, active layer thickness, daylight surface settlement, variations in CO2 emissions have been obtained at the field steady-state-station and monitoring sites on the permafrost territory of Yakutia over a period of 10-15 years. The degree of reaction of permafrost landscapes to various anthropogenic disturbances (logging, plowing area, fires, etc.) in a changing climate have also been a focus of these investigations (IMZ SB RAS).

A series of observations on ground temperature on the accumulative surfaces of the Yenisei Gulf (with new temperature loggers) are being pursued. New data on the two-stage structure of the Ice Complex in the Dixon village and on the development of thermokarst processes on the Sibiryakova Island have been obtained (ECI SB RAS, VNIIOkeangeologiya, MSU).

The works on the geotechnical monitoring of the railroad bed and embankment of the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway are in progress. This is the most northern railway in the world and it will go as far as the gas fields of Yamal Peninsula in the north of Western Siberia. A forecast on the evolution of cryogenic hazard processes has been elaborated, with detailed sections on recommendations for engineering protection of the embankment and the surrounding area as well as suggestions on improvement of the embankment construction for the sustainable exploitation of the railway (PNIIIS).

Researchers at Fundamentproject conducted a large range of research projects with the objective to create special GIS geocryological maps: A 1:1 000 000 scale geocryological map of European North of Russia, an album of the landscape, soil, vegetation maps and maps of cryogenic processes activity for the Eastern part of Yamal Peninsula (1:100 000 scale) and an album of maps along the prospective path of the Murmansk-Volkhov gas-pipeline (Fundamentproject).

Using GIS technology, a series of digital permafrost maps of various scales including its characteristics (ice content of surface sediments, ground temperature, active layer thickness and freezing layers as well as moisture content) have been compiled for the natural environment of Yakutia (IMZ SB RAS).

Based on the results of engineering-geological surveys, a series of special electronic maps on the projected route of the Polunochnoye-Salekhard railroad along the foothills of the eastern slope of the Northern and Polar Urals has also been created (PNIIIS).

At the Geology Department of Moscow State University, two methods have been developed: 1) A method of determining of the long-term strength, the durability and the rate of deformation of frozen ground in order to evaluate its bearing capacity for the construction foundation and 2) a method for the determination of the minimum values of thawing ground strength taking into account the changes in the physical and mechanical properties and in the pore pressure observed during thawing (MSU, Geology Department).

A series of experimental methods for the strengthening of the foundations of large constructions have been conducted in the Norilsk region. These setups include (in addition to the conventional cooling from underground or the use of seasonal cooling devices in the perimeter of constructions) static pressing down of piles to the bearing horizons, partial cementation of thawed gravel-pebbly or sandy soils, installation of buried subsidiary beams in the grid as well as widening of the upper part of the pile etc. (MSU, Geographical Department).

The international student field courses on permafrost in the North of Western Siberia were carried out this year again. In 2009, the student field courses were organized on board of the ship "Sovetskaya Arktika" by the Geographical department of Lomonosov MSU, IKZ and LIN SB RAS and VNIIOkeangeologiya. Research took place at the Yenisei River, the Yenisei Bay, the Kara Sea and the Gydan Bay.

The following publications have been released by Russian researchers in 2009:

  • The sixth part of the book "Fundamentals of permafrost" - "Geocryological forecast and ecological problems of geocryology" has been prepared by a group of scientists, edited by L.S. Garagulya and E.D. Ershov (MSU, Geological Department).
  • A unique Monograph on parametric drilling and core sampling through permafrost strata including a complete set of laboratory research was released under the name “Structure and properties of the frozen ground in the southern part of the Bovanenkovo gas-condensate field. Advice on the prevention of problems linked to cryogenic structures and gas blasts encountered during permafrost drilling and well operations” (MSU, Geological Department).
  • The monograph "Cryogenic metamorphism of rocks and underground waters " by S.M. Fotiev has been prepared for publication. For the first time, the conditions and results of the cryogenic metamorphism of rocks and underground waters during the Late Cenozoic have been examined. The geocryological interpretation of the unique Baikal paleoclimatic sequence has been used to do so (ECI SB RAS).
  • The monograph "Cryology of Mars and other planets of Solar System" has also been prepared for publication (Geology Dept., MSU).

Anna Kurchatova (kanni@mail.ru)