On 25 November 1992 about 30 scientists and members of the Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost of the Swiss Academy of Sciences met at the Laboratory ofHydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW) of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETHZ). Short reports were given on current permafrost research in polar and alpine areas.

M. Hoelzle (VAW) summarized results of D.C. resistivity soundings carried out on rock glaciers and ice-cored moraines of northwest Svalbard in cooperation with the Geographical Institute of the University of Oslo. K. Dettwiler and N. Ritter from the Geographical Institute, University of Basel, gave an outline of ongoing climatological and geoecological permafrost investigations in Svalbard as part of the German/Norwegian/Swiss Liefdefjorden Expeditions 1990, 1991 and 1992. Concerning the Alps, O. Antonson (Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen) discussed gas analyses on core samples from the Murtèl drilling, D. Vonder-Mühll (VAW) described gravimetric measurements on the Murtèl rock glacier, and W. Haeberli (VAW) presented time series of borehole temperatures from the same place.

Within the framework of regular Quaternary geological mapping and investigations the study of periglacial (and permafrost-related) phenomena in Weichselian sediments continues. These studies are pursued in particular by the Institute of Earth Sciences of the Free University (Amsterdam) and to some extent by the Geological Survey of The Netherlands and the Departments of Physical Geography of the Universities of Utrecht and Amsterdam.

A recent topic of interest is "cryogenic microfabrics and macrostructures and their palaeoenvironmental significance" (see A.S. Huyzer, 1993, Free University of Amsterdam, Thesis, 245 p.).

A major activity in (sub)Arctic regions has been the Greenland Ice Margin Experiment (GIMEX). These studies are carried out in the Sondre Stromfjord area in western Greenland. This multidisciplinary programme is on:

  • the mass balance of the (west) Greenland ice sheet and its sensitivity to climate change
  • the meteorology of the ablation zone of the ice sheet and the adjacent tundra area
  • the Holocene deglaciation history
  • the palaeoecology of the tundra margin
  • the sediment balance in the fjord region

The study of periglacial phenomena and permafrost temperature profiles forms an integral part of this research programme. In the summer of 1993 another expedition (about 15 participants) to the Sondre Stromfjord region will take place.

Prepared by Eduard A. Koster

The British Adhering Body is organized through a committee comprising Charles Harris, Cardiff, Geology (Chairman); Michael Clark, Southampton, Geodata (Secretary); Edward Derbyshire, Royal Holloway, London, Geography; Peter Worsley, Reading, Sedimentology; Ronald Jones, Nottingham, Engineering; and Tony Mayer, NERC, Polar Sciences. The committee has continued in its function as a source of information concerning IPA activities and a means of distributing newsletters and circulars to British scientists. IPA dues are paid by the British Royal Society on behalf of the British Adhering Body of the IPA. A Geocryology Workshop is planned for 1994.

Prepared by Charles Harris

Report from June 1993

U.S. Geological Survey.

Timothy S. Collett reports that since the mid-1980s the primary objective of the U.S. Geological Survey gas hydrate research project has been to assess the energy resource potential of gas hydrates in northern Alaska. Most of the gas hydrate occurrences are geographically restricted to the area overlying the eastern part of the Kuparuk River oil field and the western part of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. Calculations indicate that the volume of gas within these mapped hydrates is approximately 1.0 to 1.2 trillion cubic meters, about twice the amount of recoverable natural gas in the Pmdhoe Bay field. Most recently, research efforts have focused on utilizing available industry seismic data to assess the distribution of subsea gas hydrates and ice-bearing permafrost within the nearshore Alaskan continental shelf. These studies suggest that the onshore Pmdhoe Bay-Kuparuk River gas hydrate accumulations may extend as much as 15 km into the near-offshore. This gas-hydrate-related research has also focused on the relation between permafrost-associated gas hydrates and global climate change. Under the present climate regime, the gas hydrates of the nearshore continental shelf may be the most vulnerable to change. Field work includes both onshore and offshore geochemical surveys in northern Alaska and the establishment of gas flux monitoring stations which enable us to directly measure the rate of gas flux from decomposing gas hydrates.