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Report from June 1991

Chinese-Soviet Joint Investigations

Joint investigations on alpine permafrost in Central Asia were begun in 1991 by the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, Academia Sinica, and the Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch, U.S.S.R. Academy of Science. The participants include A.P. Gorbunov, E.D. Ermolin, S.H. Titkov and others from the Soviet Union and Qiu Guoqing, Zeng Zonggong, Wang Shujiun, Zhao Lin and Jin Huijun from China. The 1991 work, focused on the Zailiiski Alatau of the Soviet Union, Mounts Tianger and Western Bogeda in China, includes observations,drilling, electrical sounding and excavations.

A result of the 1991 investigations is improved understanding of periglacial phenomena: e.g., the perennial ice-cored frost mound at the Chinese Tianshan Glaciological Station, and palsa, ploughing stone and polygons in Western Bogeda. A group of polygonal cracks filled with humic soil was dated at 4656±93B.P. in the eastern Zailiiski Alatau. At the Chinese Tianshan Glaciological Station the finding of buried humic soil horizons indicated thickening of the permafrost, with the sediment aggrading since 4301±96 B.P.

By comparative investigation it is known that the formative conditions of permafrost vary between the Zailiiski Alatau and Mt. Tianger areas. In the former, precipitation is concentrated in the cold season, forming a thick snow cover unfavorable for ground freezing; in the latter, however, winter snowfall is low, freezing penetrates the ground to a considerable depth, and the snowfall in summer is favorable for the preservation of frozen ground. At a similar latitude the lower limit of alpine permafrost is higher for the Zailiiski Alatau, and at similar elevation the permafrost is thicker and colder on Mt. Tianger. Under the comprehensive effect of several factors (e.g. earthquakes, rockfalls, precipitation, glaciation and freezing), many "near-glacier" large and fast-moving rock glaciers are developed in thezailiiski Alatau, while on Tianger there are only a few "near slope," smaller and slowly moving rock glaciers. Sporadic permafrost was found in coarse-blocked sediment in the shadows of trees and under moss cover on the north-facing slopes of the Zailiiski Alatau at elevations as low as 1850 m. As a result of the 1991 joint work, the first issue of Alpine Permafrost Studies in Central Asia will be published in early summer of 1992.

In accord with an agreement between the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering (National Frozen Soil Engineering Laboratory), the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology (LIGG), the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Department of Geology, Moscow State University (MSU), U.S.S.R., a joint research programme was started in 1990 in the fields of physics and mechanics of frozen soils. Last year two experts, Dr. IU.P. Lebedenko and Dr. L.T. Roman, came to LIGG, and Associate Professor Xu Xiaozu went to MSU. Researchers from both sides worked together and conducted many interesting and significant tests.

In the State Key Laboratory in China experiments on water and solute migration in frozen soils in an open system and under temperature gradients were carried out successfully. Compared with tests carried out by the Department of Geology, MSU in 1973, the sample sizes were about 20 times larger than the earlier ones and the temperature gradients used were 20 to 50 times lower. Gas hydrate was artificially synthesized and its unfrozen water content determined by the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique. Using scanning microscope techniques, it was found that ice accumulates at the outer side of a model-test frozen silt wall under confining pressure acting on the inner side of the wall. Roman and Zhu Yuanlin found that the creep test data fit Roman's long-term strength model very well.

In the Laboratory of the Department of Geology, MSU, Xu Xiaozu and Dr. Chuvilin studied the interface conditions of frozen soils using an electronic microscope. They found that the shape of unfrozen water surrounding frozen soil particles was basically divided into three types-smooth, winding and overflowing and was dependent on factors such as soil type, temperature, solute type and solution concentration.

International joint research is considered very helpful in the development of permafrost studies, and it is hoped that the IPA will also organize similar joint research on some important subjects in this field.

Prepared by
Cheng Guodong

Report from December 1991

The World Data Center-D for Glaciology and Geocryology is operated by, and co-located with, the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology (LIGG), Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Center has extensive holdings in the areas of ice, snow and permafrost, as follows:

  1. Glaciology
  2. Glacier inventory
  3. Glaciological hydrology
  4. Glaciological climatology
  5. Ice core
  6. Ice sheets in the polar regions
  7. River, lake and sea ice
  8. Ice chemistry
  9. Ice physical parameters
  10. Landsat MSS, TM, SPOT images and CCT data in typical glacial areas
  11. Engineering parameters of ice


  1. Permafrost distribution
  2. Permafrost temperature
  3. Profile data of permafrost geology
  4. Thermal and mechanical properties of frozen soils and the data from Low Temperature Laboratories
  5. Ground ice
  6. TM, SPOT images and aerial photographs in typical permafrost regions

Snow cover

  1. Ground observation data
  2. Snow chemistry
  3. Snow avalanche and snowdrift
  4. Snow physical parameters
  5. Snow remote sensed data: AVHRR, SMMR, TM, SPOT Northern Hemisphere-winters and springs from 1966-1983) (CCT, ½ inch) Snow spectrum reflection data in different state (0.38- to 1.2-µm; resolution: 10 mm, density: 1600/800, ½ inch)
  6. Engineering parameters of snow

Data and publications available include:


Further information can be obtained fromWDC-D for Glaciology and Geocryology, Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
Telephone: (0931) 26725, Ext. 251
Cable: Lanzhou 0393
Telex: 72008 IGGAS CN
Director: Professor Xie Zichu
Vice Directors: Professor Zeng Qunzhu and Professor Cheng Guodong
Personnel in Charge of Techniques: Associate Professor Feng Xuezhi
Executive Secretary: Assistant Professor Chen Xianzhang