In 2014, 12 projects funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Natural Science Foundation of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the China Railway Engineering Co., Ltd., the State Grid Co., Ltd., the China Communications Co., Ltd., and the Qinghai Department of Transportation (DOT) were completed.
Concerning permafrost science, major achievements included the assessment of permafrost changes and thaw settlement hazards on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), the stability of tower foundations for the Qinghai-Tibet DC-Circuit Systems and along National Highway 109 (Golmud to Lhasa), the mapping of changing permafrost conditions along National Highway 214 ( Xi'ning to Yushu (Gyêgu), Qinghai), the response mechanisms of permafrost to climate change and carbon cycling on the QTP, and the design of express highways in northern Northeast China. Concerning the physics and mechanics of frozen ground, accomplishments included completion of programs on physical and mechanical properties of frozen and unfrozen soils near the phase change zone, salt migration processes in cold saline soils and their impact on subgrade deformation, and moisture migration and hydrothermal coupling processes in the active layer beneath highways in permafrost regions.
The survey of plateau permafrost included the instrumentation of 108 boreholes for ground temperature measurements and two comprehensive observation sites were established. Maps of permafrost distribution were constructed using remote sensing and GIS metadata aided by ground-truthing.
The Tibet Autonomous Region has been developing very rapidly. It will be necessary to build new high-speed highways, power transmission lines and oil/gas pipelines in the immediate future (3-5 years). Additional engineering projects that will need to be deployed within the Qinghai-Tibet Engineering Corridor (QTEC) will impose increasing disturbances to the permafrost environment. This will accelerate permafrost degradation along the QTEC under a warming climate. Thus, it is important to ensure the engineering, water and ecological safety along the vulnerable QTEC and the ecologically-sensitive source areas of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang-Mekong rivers. Many research programs are focused on these themes.
Permafrost activities on the southern flanks of the Qilian Mountains on the northeast QTP relate to coal mining and their associated access roads and railways. This has been ongoing since the 1960s but recently coal mining has drastically expanded both horizontally and at depth. New rail and road networks have been built but geocryological and cold regions engineering problems have arisen and demand better study. On the northern and western flanks of the Qilian Mountains, permafrost studies are mainly aimed at understanding the hydrological processes in the headwaters of the major rivers in the Hexi Corridor, as well as the evolution of permafrost since the Last Glaciation.
In the source areas of the Yellow River on the northeastern QTP, permafrost studies during the last few years focused on environmental impacts and terrestrial processes, as well as the building of the Qinghai-Kang Highway (QKH) from Gong'he to Yushu. Starting in the 1990s, monitoring networks for climate, geocryology and cold regions engineering were gradually installed, mainly along the NH214 (QKH) and NH109 (QTH), and the connection road between the two. The major aim was to understand the ecological and engineering impacts arising from a changing permafrost environment.
In northern Northeast China, recent economic development has also necessitated an upgraded transportation network. Reliable roadways and railbeds that function efficiently under extremes of cold (as low as -59°C) and heat (up to more than 40°C) are necessary. Unfortunately, prior to 2009, long-term monitoring records for ground temperatures, both in natural and engineered states, were largely absent, with only an exception at Yituli'he, with a permafrost borehole from 1980-2004. The recent Harbin-Dalian high-speed railbed has proven effective in frost hazard mitigation but still experiences slight (1-3%) frost heaving in fine-grained soils. The soils along the railbed have been equipped with monitoring systems for hydrothermal and mechanical processes for a total of 909 km from Harbin to Dalian, and there are 25 monitoring transect in the southern part.
NEW AND ONGOING PROJECTS/PROGRAMS
By late November 2014, about 14 projects were recently approved with foci on permafrost hydrology, the thermal and mechanical stability of permafrost, the deformation of frozen halic soils, thaw slumping and thaw consolidation of warm and icy permafrost, coupled heat transfer models for thermosyphons, construction techniques for high-speed roadways at high elevations, creeping of permafrost soils, the frost restructuring of coal rocks, and the migration of spilled oil in thawing permafrost soils.
In 2014, there were 19 major ongoing research programs focusing on permafrost and cold regions engineering. Funding from all levels of government and industry increased in 2012-2013, but funding for the next two years is uncertain because of changing funding policies and the merging of funding organization.
In this report, three programs are briefly described.
1. CAS Key Strategic Program: Hydrological impacts of degrading permafrost and associated hydrology in the source area of the Yellow River (SAYR)
The year 2014 was important for the SAYR hydrology program. Monitoring and field sites/watersheds have now been established in areas representing continuous, discontinuous, and patchy permafrost zones, as well as an area with seasonally-frozen ground. The aim is to understand the surface and subsurface hydrology and changes in hydrological cycles and hydraulic connections under a warming scenario with permafrost changing from continuous, cold permafrost to discontinuous, patchy warm permafrost and, eventually, to seasonally-frozen ground.
Thirty-five boreholes with a total depth of 818 m were completed in 2014. In addition, GPR soundings and hand-dug pits helped to understand and map permafrost distribution and the hydrothermal state of the active layer in the study sites and the experimental watershed. All boreholes and many active-layer sites were instrumented for continuous thermal monitoring. Monitoring of terrestrial processes was also established and, on the basis of climate and hydrological records and aided with the RS/GIS data, the trends and responsiveness of the permafrost soil environment and hydrology to climate change were analyzed for the last 50 years.
Permafrost hydrology focused on supplementary surveys on permafrost, soils and active layer processes in additional to hydrological processes, isotope hydrology and groundwater dynamics.
In April-May, 2014, five more sites were set up for monitoring active-layer processes in the experimental watershed. This is in addition to the original five plots in the SAYR (at Chalaping, Maduo Village, Tangchama and northern Ngöring lakeshore) that had been established in 2010. Surface and subsurface water samples were analyzed for stable and radioactive isotopes, such as δ18O, δD, and Ra and Rn as tracers for understanding hydraulic connections between the supra-, intra- and sub-permafrost waters, and surface waters (lakes, rivers, precipitation, icings and ground ice (pingo, lake and river ice and snow cover).
2. CAS Pilot Program on Carbon Budgets: subproject on permafrost extent in China during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 21±2 ka BP) & Holocene Megathermal period (HMP, 6±1 ka BP)
In 2014 this subproject undertook the survey, verification and sampling of sedimentary structures thought to reflect the previous presence of permafrost ('past permafrost') in Northwest China during the LGM and HMP. Previously, Pleistocene permafrost studies in China mainly focused on the QTP, and North/ Northeast China. Because Northwest China is dominated by steppe and (gobi) desert terrain, the project is trying to identify the evidence for permafrost in these cold deserts during the LGM and the criteria for when and where the sandy and silty soils were frozen and subsequently thawed, taking into account environmental proxies and mineral analysis. The lower/southern limits of permafrost during the LGM and HMP in Northwest China are poorly known. A multi-disciplinary approach is required that, in addition to geocryologists, involves specialists in glaciology, Quaternary science and tectonics.
In May 2014, Huijun Jin and Fujun Niu led a field inspection of the northern QTP covering a total distance of about 4,000 km from Lanzhou (Xi'ning, Golmud, Kunlun Mountain Pass, Beilu'he Riverside, Budongquan (unfrozen springs), Maduo Village, Sisters' Lakes (Gyaring and Ngöring lakes), Madoi, Huang'he (Yellow River) Village, Bayan Har Mountains, Qingshui'he (Clear Water), and Mado). Emeritus Professor Hugh French (U Ottawa, Canada), Dr Sergey Marchenko (Geophysical Institute, UAF), Dr. Xiaoling Wu (Ho'hai University, Nanjing) and Dr. Julia Stanilovskaya (RAS, Moscow) participated in the trip. French, Marchenko and Stanilovskaya made presentations on past and present permafrost research prior to the trip. A group photo was taken in front of the new permafrost station (40 km east of Madoi, Qinghai) on northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Group photo of the QTH-QKH trip in front of the New Huashixia Permafrost Observatory, 40 km east of Madoi, southern Qinghai along the Qinghai-Kang (West Sichuan Province) Highway (at KM456)
Several localities were visited where there was evidence of paleopermafrost (Figs. 2 and 3). After the trip, Marchenko, Jin, and others inspected permafrost in Northeast China. In November-December 2014, sand-wedge casts were inspected by Jin's team in the Hexi Corridor in western Gansu Province, about 1200 km west of Lanzhou (Fig. 4).
Figure 2. Load casting at Huangchengzi Village, Mengyuan, northern Qinghai Province.
Figure 3. Sand wedges in slates at Huang'he Village, southeastern Sources Area of the Yellow River (SAYR, above Madoi) (Fujun Nui and Hugh French in photos)
Figure 4. Sand wedges and cryoturbations 20 km east of Guazhou, Dunhuang, western Gansu along the NH G30
3. Frost hazards along the China-Russia Crude Oil Pipeline (CRCOP, Line I): Formation mechanisms and mitigative measures
The CRCOP (Spur Line I) from Mo'he to Daqing has been in operation since late 2010. Due to unexpectedly high oil temperatures (average about 10°C; range of 1-23°C), thaw settlement of the pipeline foundation soils has been identified at several localities. The risks from frost hazards and other geohazards, such as slope failures, forest fires, landslides, and earthquakes, were evaluated as being under control. Mitigative measures, such as cooling by thermosyphons, have been monitored and regularly evaluated using GPR in addition to drilling and excavated pits. Secondary periglacial hazards, such as icings, frost mounds, thermokarst ponds and thermal slumping were surveyed in winter and spring.
MAJOR ACADEMIC EXCHANGE ACTIVITIES
The SKLFSE has signed agreements/MOUs on scientific research and educational exchange with University of Austria, Laval University, The University of Alaska System, and University of East Anglia. Joint research programs were implemented in the SAYR, Hei'he Watershed, and Northeast China. Six SKLFSE young scientists went to study abroad and conduct cooperative research: Dr. Shuping Zhao (University of Pittsburg, PA, USA), Dr. Sizhong Yang (AWI for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany), Dr. Zhanju Lin (Carleton University, Canada), and Drs. Fan Yu, Xiaoliang Yao, Junfeng Wang, and Shujuan Zhang.
Visitors to the SKLFSE during 2014 included the following: Dr. Xicai Pan from the Global Water Security Institute at University of Saskatoon, Canada; Prof. William A. Gough from University of Toronto, Canada; Prof. Sergey S. Marchenko from Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska-Fairbanks; Prof. Victor F. Bense from University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; Dr. Lin Liu from Hong Kong Chinese University; Prof. Ochirbat Batkhishig, Director of Soil Laboratory, Mongolian Institute of Geography; Prof. Qing Wang from Jilin University; Prof. Shilong Piao from Beijing University; Dr. Miaogen Shen from the Institute of Tibet Plateau Research, CAS; Profs. Mikhail Zhaleleniak and Lilia Prokopieva from the Melnikov Permafrost Institute, North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk, Russia; Prof. Qinxue Wang from National Institute of Environmental Studies, China. On 28-29 November, PetroChina Pipeline Co. reached an agreement with CAREERI on the investigation and assessment of permafrost engineering geology along the recently proposed China-Russia Natural Gas-line (East Spurline from Hei'he to Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China).
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES
On 18-21 June 2014, Academician Guodong Cheng, Prof. Fujun Niu and Dr. Ji Chen attended the EUCOP IV in Evora, Portugal. They presented an invited talk on"Current status of cold regions road engineering in China", and a session report on "Investigation on the modern permafrost in the central and west QTP" and a poster "Analysis of thermal characteristics and disturbance scopes of linear engineering construction projects in the permafrost regions of the QTP. At this meeting, Professor Guodong Cheng was awarded the IPA Lifetime Achievement Award on 19 June 2014 (see Fig. 5)
On 22-24 August 2014, more than 300 people attended the 10th International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering (TISoPE) in Harbin held by the Heilongjiang University and sponsored by Geographical Society of China, IPA Permafrost Engineering Working Group, RAS Melnikov Permafrost Institute, and Heilongjiang Cold-land Building Institute, under a theme of "Permafrost engineering and adaptive strategies". More than 20 scholars from the SKLFSE, led by Professors Wei Ma, Yuanming Lai and Guodong Cheng, participated in or organized the symposium. Professors Wei Ma and Huijun Jin respectively presented invited talks on "Major permafrost engineering projects in China" and "Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions'.
On 24-27 October, The First Chinese Conference on Cryosphere Science was successfully convened in Beijing with a theme on "Cryospheric change, impacts and sustainable development". It aimed at providing a platform on academic exchange on cryosphere science. This meeting was jointly held with the First IUGG Meeting China, with more than 200 people attended the cryospheric sessions, and about 1,000 people from China and overseas attend the joint IUGG meetings. Academicians Da'he Qin, Tandong Yao, Bojie Fu, Guoxiong Wu, and others, as well as Professors Wei Ma, Yongjian Ding, and Zhijiu Cui, and others, presented on the plenary sessions. Professors Wei Ma and Fujun Niu respectively presented plenary reports entitled "Permafrost engineering in China: Research and challenges" and "Permafrost problems and their solutions of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway". Professor Huijun Jin chaired the Session on "Cryospheric Records and Paleo-environmental Reconstruction" and presented an invited session report on "Evolution of permafrost and periglacial environments in Northeast China". Dr. Yuzhong Yang (SKLFSE) presented a paper entitled "Isotopic features of ground ice on the QTP and its implications in climatology and hydrology".
On 1-2 November, Dr. Guoyu Li (SKLFSE) attended the Second Chinese Symposium on Multiple-Fields Interactions of Soils/Rocks and Environmental Geotechnical Engineering held in Shanghai, China, and presented a paper on "Frost hazards and mitigation of the post-construction China-Russia Crude Oil Pipeline from Mo'he to Daqing, Northeast China".
On 19-21 November, SKLFSE held its annual academic committee meeting (5th Meeting of the 5th Academic Committee) in Lanzhou. Leaders from MOST, CAS, and CAREERI participated in and Academician Guodong Cheng, the SKLFSE Academic Director, anchored the meeting. Prof. Qingbai Wu, Director-elect of the SKLFSE, reported on the SKLFSE progress in 2014 and prospects for 2015. After the reporting, the academic committee members reviewed and granted 10 of the 32 proposals for annual research funding.
NEW FIELD STATIONS AND CAMPS FOR PERMAFROST STUDIES
Five new stations for permafrost studies in China were established in 2014:
Permafrost Ecology Station at Gen'he, Inner Mongolia
A Permafrost Ecology Station has been established at Gen'he, Inner Mongolia, northern Northeast China. The focus is on permafrost-forest ecosystems in the northern Da Xing'anling (Hinggan) Mountains. It is under the joint auspices of SKLFSE, CAREERI, CAS (Lanzhou, Gansu Province) and the College of Forestry, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University (Hoh Hot, Inner Mongolia). The station is positioned at 53.5°N latitude in order to observe the dynamics of frigid-temperate ecosystems in permafrost terrain, with a special interest in the interactive and interdependent processes associated with permafrost, boreal forests, wetland ecosystems, snow cover and cryosols. Although many of the observational sites have been in operation since 2009, the official opening of the joint station was made by President Wei Ma, Academician Yuanming Lai and Director Yushan Hao on August 19, 2014.
Basic information about the Station:
Affiliations: CAREERI, CAS and Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot, IMAR, China
Station Masters：Professor Huijun Jin/Xiaoli Chang (SKLFSE, CAREERI, CAS), and Professor Qiuliang Zhang (Gen'he CFERN Station, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University)
Address: Gen'he CFERN Station Km 13.5 Landscape Avenue, Gen'he, Inner Mongolia 022300
More info available at: http://sklfse.casnw.net/show.asp?id=130
Joint Observatory of Permafrost Environment in Hola basin, Mo'he, Heilongjiang Province
The Joint Observatory of Permafrost Environment in the Hola basin, Northern Da Xing'anling Mountains was declared open by President Wei Ma and Sr. Eng. Futing Ma, Deputy Manager of Gulian Coal Mine Co., on August 21, 2014. More than 20 guests attended the ceremony. The focus is upon geocryology, cold regions mining and ecology, and hydrogeology.
Basic information about the Station:
Affiliations: CAREERI, CAS and Gulian Coal Mine Co., Ltd.
Station Masters: Prof. Huijun Jin/Dr. RX He (SKLFSE); Sr. Engr. Futing Ma (Gulian Coal Mine)
Address: Gulian Coal Mine Co., Mo'he County, Heilongjiang Province 165308 China
More info available at: http://sklfse.casnw.net/show.asp?id=129
SKLFSE Graduate Student Experimental Base in Wanjia, Heilongjiang Province
An Experimental Research Base on Seasonally Frozen Ground for SKLFSE graduate students was officially established at Wanjia, very close to the Harbin Airport on August 25, 2014. It is a joint program by SKLFSE and the Heilongjiang Academy of Hydraulic Science and Technology.
Monitoring Base for Permafrost Environment on Mt. Ma'hanshan, Gansu Province
A Monitoring Base for Permafrost Environment was established on Mt. Ma'hanshan, about 50 km east of Lanzhou, Gansu, China, on October 19, 2014. With the highest summit at 3670.4 m asl, the Mt. Ma'hanshan is characterized by glaciated slopes, modern periglacial landforms and permafrost. Academician Da'he Qin inspected the station Professor with Lin Zhao as the master.
New Huashixia Permafrost Station
The New Huashixia Permafrost Station, jointly operated by the Qinghai DOT and SKLFSE, is located at KM430 along NH 214 from Gong'he to Yushu, at the mid-point between the towns of Huashixia and Madoi (40 km in both directions). It was formally opened in June 2014. This station, built upon continuous permafrost, is positioned to understand permafrost conditions along the highway and to study frost hazards and their mitigative measures. The station is equipped with well-designed living quarters and experimental laboratories, an experimental road section and other segments, and has experimental sites for alpine ecology. Many of the mitigative measures and their monitoring systems along the 331-km-long permafrost segments of NH 214, and the recently built sections of the Express Highway from Gong'he to Yushu, are also important components of the station mandate. The NH 214 traverses the permafrost regions in Laji, Buqing, Bur Hanbuda, Anyemaqên and Bayan Har mountains to the north of Yushu, and extends southwards to the China and Burma borders.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND AWARDS
1. Academician Guodong Cheng received the IPA Lifetime Achievement Award from IPA president Toni Lewkowicz at the EUCOPIV conference in Evora, Portugal in June (Fig. 5).
Figure 5. Professor Cheng received the IPA Lifetime Achievement Award.
2. Academician Yuanming Lai won the Prize for Scientific and Technological Progress of Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation for his contribution to the permafrost engineering research (Fig. 6).
Figure 6. Professor Yuanming Lai received the Ho Leung Ho Lee Prize.
Report prepared by Huijun Jin, CAREERI, Lanzhou, CAS ( firstname.lastname@example.org)