Report from June 1993

Permafrost Geoscience in Canadian Universities

The state of permafrost research in Canadian universities is intimately linked to industrial interest in northem regions. There was substantial activity from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, but now there are relatively few continuing programs. In part this stems from declining support for university research. For example, in January 1993 the Geological Survey eliminated its University Research Agreements program, which sponsored a small but significant portion of the field effort in permafrost, and substantially reduced, after a decade, its proportion of the support for Canada-France pipeline-ground freezing experiments at Caen, Normandy. The age structure of the professorate is also a factor, with some senior colleagues participating less in fieldwork. Projected budgets suggest that automatic replacement of retiring faculty is unlikely in the mid-1990s.

Nevertheless, we have the example of Professor J. Ross Mackay (UBC), who remains our most productive scientist, and has spent more time in the field since his "retirement" ( 1980) than many will in their entire lives. The award of the 1991 Logan Medal signifies the substance and leadership of his research. His most recent work on thermal contraction cracking provides aß remarkable synthesis of detailed field observations and the theory of crack propagation in solids.

Report from June 1993

All arrangements for the Conference are well under way. (See inside back cover for schedule of sessions and routes of field trips.) A total of 189 papers are being published in the pre-conference proceedings volume. A total of 70 poster papers will be presented and 4000-word summaries published in the post-conference volume, along with reports of special sessions and other information.

The State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering of the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology was accepted by the Chinese Government at the end of 1992 and has been put into operation. New progress on frozen soil mechanics, heat and mass transfer, and engineering simulation has been accomplished in this laboratory.

Submitted by
Zhu Yuanlin

The Adhering Body is the Danish Society of Arctic Technology and its sister organization, the Greenland Technological Society. The Adhering Body acts as a source of information concerning International Permafrost Association activities for Danish and Greenlandic members of the societies. The societies' membership includes about 300 individuals and 40 companies and institutions. Within this framework the societies organize meetings and establish links with other organizations and companies concerned with cold climate regions. Besides the societies' initiatives in both countries, with meetings and the like, work is also carried out in consulting engineering companies, universities, and governmental institutions.

In January 1993 a group of consulting engineering companies in Denmark and Sweden prepared the first draft of a book entitled Permafrost Studies for Hydro-Power. The work, sponsored by the Nordic Industrial Foundation, covers the relationship of permafrost to: 1) hydraulic structures in general, 2) lakes, and 3) dams and embankments.

Long-term temperature data for rock in Greenland are still being collected at some stations. The data are kept in the Greenland Home Rule hydrological-climatological database, where considerable time series are now available. From this database and synoptic temperature data from Denmark's Meteorological Institute a new map has been drawn of discontinuous and continuous permafrost distribution in Greenland. The map was shown at the poster session at the Beijing Conference, together with a display copy of the first draft of the book Permafrost Studies for Hydro-Power.

Submitted by Thorkild Thomsen

Many scientists of the German Permafrost Community are still absorbed in evaluation of the data from the German Geoscientific Spitzbergen Expeditions that took place between 1990 and 1992 with more than 45 participants. Two preliminary volumes containing results appeared in 1992 (Stuttgart) and 1993 (Basel). Several papers with detailed results and large-scale color maps have been finished recently and are being prepared for printing in spring 1994 in a volume of Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie (Supplementband).

German permafrost studies are continuing mainly in the Alps (Germany, Switzerland) and in the Andes (Argentina). In addition, several German permafrost scientists have been active at international conferences and seminars, and some joined the post-conference excursions to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and to Urumqi-Xinjiang. At the "Joint Russian-American Seminar on Cryopedology and Global Change" in Pushchino in November 1992, several German papers presented results of microbiological, geochemical, pedological and paleopedological studies in Siberia and Antarctica. At the Sixth International Permafrost Conference in Beijing, German contributions mainly presented results of the Svalbard expeditions.

The Italian Adhering Body of the International Permafrost Association is completing an inventory of rock glaciers both in the Alps and in the north central Apennines. The results of these studies are also an Italian contribution to the IPA permafrost map of the Northern Hemisphere. Large-scale geomorphological mapping is in progress in selected mountain areas (central and western Alps and Apennines) which have proved to be affected by permafrost. Very detailed studies have also been carried out for more than 40 rock glaciers, including 14c datings, BTS measurements, geoelectrical soundings and remote sensing.

Research continued at two stations installed in the Valtellina area (central Alps) some five years ago to monitor creep phenomena in rock glaciers. A new research station has been established on an active rock glacier in the upper Valtellina catchment. In this area, located at about 2700 m a.s.l., meteorological instruments and more than 15 thermistors measuring ground temperature at different depths have been installed.

As reported in Frozen Ground number 11, a joint Japanese-Russian permafrost program was agreed to in 1990. The following diagram shows the organization of the program. The joint permafrost studies began in summer 1992 with more than 23 scientists from two Japanese groups (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and Japan Environmental Agency) participating.

On 27 January 1993, many of the scientists who participated in the previous year's work assembled at the Institute of Low Temperature Science and presented results of their initial studies. A total of 25 short papers related to trace gases, permafrost soils, geology, fauna and flora were published in March 1993 in Proceedings of the First Symposium on Joint Siberian Permafrost Studies Between Japan and Russia in 1992 (M. Fukuda, Ed.).

Report based on preface of proceedings volume

Current activities in permafrost research relate to technical developments and are scaled to the size of the country and the actual problems. Some 30 people are involved to varying degrees.

Research on permafrost and periglacial processes takes place at the Polar Research Institute and in university departments. The level of activity is about the same as before and the work involves close cooperation with foreign colleagues. Construction activities at Svalbard have been reduced in recent years. Greater involvement of Norwegian-based oil companies is, however, foreseen for the Barents Sea region. It is important to be prepared for this development. As part of this, the Norwegian Institute of Technology is offering education and research opportunities in permafrost technology. This is made possible through close cooperation with Canadian and Russian colleagues.

Norway has terminated publication of the journal Frost Action in Soils. Membership in IPA has thus become even more important to us, and we appreciate the information we receive through IPA in general and Frozen Ground in particular.

Prepared by Kaare Flaate

The annual meeting of the Council on Cryology was held in Pushchino, near Moscow, 20-24 April 1993 at the Institute of Soil and Photosynthesis of the Russian Academy of Sciences. At the plenary session eight papers were presented:

  • Development of the coastal area of the Arctic seas
  • Thermoabrasion of Arctic shores and decomposition of gas hydrates
  • Engineering-geocryological research in the central area of the Yamal Peninsula
  • Formation of the tundra soil cover in northeast Russia
  • Permafrost research in the Arctic territories to develop recommendations for survey and construction
  • Changes in the rate of thermoabrasion and thermodenudation in the coastal area of the Laptev Sea
  • Permafrost evolution and its monitoring by the contemporary global climate change
  • The dynamics of frozen shores in the shoal coastal area of the East Siberian Sea
  • International Circumpolar Permafrost Map (Russian part)

At the special sessions, about 70 papers on general and engineering geocryology (physics and chemistry of frozen soil, hydrology, linear construction, underground water, ecology, and environmental protection) were discussed.

An international seminar on "Protection of Construction Against Frost Heaving" was held in Chita, Siberia, 27-29 September 1993 at the Chita Department of the Permafrost Institute.

Prepared by Nikolai Grave

The Adhering Body is small, but active. Work has been undertaken in the Antarctic, the Drakensberg Mountains, and the mountains of the Western Cape. The first meeting of the "Southern African Permafrost Group" (SAPG) was held in April 1993 at the University of the Western Cape, and a field session was held in the mountains of that area. A Bibliography of Research on Periglacial Geomorphology in Southern Africa was compiled by Jan Boelhouwers. Papers on related topics were presented at the International Permafrost Conference in Beijing, the International Association of Geomorphologists meeting in Hamilton, and the local SASQUA meeting in Kimberley. Cooperative work with colleagues in Caen, France, was initiated. An attempt is being made to interest the world community in the cryogenic questions of the Southern Hemisphere and to broaden the local membership of the SAPG, which includes: President: Kevin Hall (University of Natal); Secretary: Patricia Hanvey University of Witwatersrand); President-Elect: Jan Boelhouwers (University of the Western Cape).

Prepared by Kevin Hall

At the Council meeting in 1993 in Beijing, China, the Spanish National Permafrost Committee became an official member of the International Permafrost Association. The committee currently consists of 28 scientists that are representative of Spanish research in the field of permafrost and geocryology. The members are from different universities and research institutes in Spain, e.g. Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Santander, Sevilla, LaLaguna (Tenerife), AlcalA, Jaca Huesca. The committee elected Professor David Palacios, Universidad Computense, Madrid, as its chairman. The IPA Committee plans to meet in June 1994 to establish its organization and plans.

Committee members are conducting permafrost studies in several Spanish mountain ranges (Pyrenees, Cordillera Cantabrica, Sistema Central, Sierra Nevada and Teide Volcano). Some Spanish teams are also working abroad, e.g. in the Mexican stratovolcanoes, the South American Andes, and Antarctica.

Prepared by Lorenz King
Regional Reporter, Europe