A proposal for global change research with the following objectives was prepared and submitted to the Inter-American Institute for Global Research (IAI) :

  • Search for evidence of global change in Andean permafrost
  • Study the structure and composition of cryogenic mesoforms
  • Identify regional and bihemispherical palaeoclimatic evidence of permafrost.
  • Investigate the relation between cryogenic subsoils and discharge of mountain rivers

From time to time, the Canadan Organizing Committee for the 7th International Conference on Permafrost June 1998) will use this column in Frozen Ground to present background information on the conference program and on the conference site, the City of Yellowknife, NWT. This is the first of these reports.
Yellowknife—the site of the 7th International Conference on Permafrost—is a bustling city of 17,000 situated on the shores of Great Slave Lake, in the southern part of the Northwest Territories of Canada. At latitude 62'28' north, it is about 960 km (600 miles) north of Edmonton (the site of the 3rd International Conference on Permafrost in 1978) and 440 km (275 miles) south of the Arctic Circle. The highway from Edmonton, opened through to Yellowknife in 1960, crosses the Mackenzie River at Fort Providence by means of a ferry in summer and an ice-bridge in winter. The road is open year round except for periods of a few weeks at the time of break-up and freeze-up of the river ice cover each spring and fall.  The road distance from Edmonton is 1530 km (950 miles).

The Project, Research on Changes in Cryosphere Dynamics in China (second stage) has begun. It includes the following subjects:

  • Monitoring of cryosphere and information systems in China
  • Cryosphere on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and a model of its response to global climate change (1:4,000,000), supported by GIS
  • A model for predicting the engineering geocryological conditions along the Qinghai-Tibet highway (1:500,000), supported by GIS
  • A model for predicting the response of cryosphere to climate change in the Urumqi River basin (1:50,000), supported by GIS
  • Present processes of the active layer in the permafrost region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • Effect of climate change on the environmental engineering-geological conditions of permafrost

A long-term monitoring program called Zackenberg Basic was started in 1995 by the Danish Polar Center, in cooperation with scientists from the Institute of Geography, the Institute of Zoology and the Institute of Botany, University of Copenhagen. Zackenberg (74°28'N, 20°34'W) is located in the southern part of the world's largest national park, the National Park in North and East Greenland. Zackenberg Basic has as its primary goal the collection of data on a wide variety of physical and biological parameters from the High Arctic ecosystem. Part of Zackenberg Basic is the GeoBasis Programme, in which permafrost and periglacial processes are being monitored in a 600-km2 water catchment area. The study area is located in the zone of continuous permafrost. A climate station is logging air temperature and humidity, precipitation, UV-A and UV-B, net radiation and soil temperature at 10 depths from 0 to 150 cm (in the active layer and upper permafrost) every hour and wind velocity and direction every 10 minutes.

The National Frost Committee of the Finnish Geotechnical Society is engaged in a national research project, "The foundation and pavement structures of roads." The goal is to develop a practical procedure for the frost design of roads in Finland. The program, intended to last six years, has just started and is based on national laboratory and field investigations. It is in contact with the U.S. Strategic Highway Research Program LTPP projects.

Submitted by Eero Slunga

The paleopermafrost modeling program continues with a drillhole in western France, undertaken by the participating agencies: CNRS, French Geological Survey, Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées, and the National Agency for Nuclear Wastes. Comparison with field evidence is underway in Normandy (CNRS, Caen) and in Aquitaine (Institut du Quaternaire, Bordeaux).
The paleopermafrost data will be published as a CLIMEX Map at the end of this year under the direction of Jean Dercourt, President of the Commission for the Geological Map of the World (CGMW). Efforts will be made to incorporate additional information from the European Group of Climate Modeling for the Last Glaciation.

The principal results of the Geoscientific Spitsbergen Expedition 1990-92 have now been published, mainly in Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie,N.F., Suppl.-Bd. 97, 1994. Several papers are of special interest to the permafrost community: patterned ground in the inner Woodfjord area (D. Thannheiser et al.), chemical weathering in high-arctic soils (W.D. Blümel et al.), recent fluvial sediment budgets in glacial and periglacial environments (D. Barsch et al.), the Late Quaternary glaciation history and landscape development (W.D. Blümel et al.), the glacial history (G. Furrer), glaciology and glacial gemorphology (L. King et al.), and evolution and age of shorelines along Woodfjord (H. Brückner et al.). Further work by this large group of polar geographers is focused on syntheses of the  chronological results and studies on actual geomorphological processes in the permafrost environment of a catchment area at Liefdefiord, NW Spitsbergen. The development of a geoecological model for this catchment is planned. In addition, permafrost research is done by several geographical working  groups, especially at the universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Regensburg.

In January 1996, the Fourth Symposium on Joint Siberian Permafrost Studies Between Japan and Russia was held at Sapporo. At the meeting, attended by 60 participants, 30 papers were given dealing with the results of the previous summer's field program. In addition to papers, V.N. Konishchev, Moscow State University, visiting professor at the Institute of Low Temperature Science, presented a special report on the genesis and occurrence of the Edoma ice complex in Siberia. The proceedings of this meeting have been published and are available from the convener of the meeting, Masami Fukuda.

The Laboratory of Geocryology of the International Center of Geoecology of Mountain Countries in Arid Regions (ICGM) carried out studies on monitoring of permafrost and the thermal regime of the active layer in northern Tien Shan. The laboratory continued to study cryogenic processes, movement of solifluction, rock glaciers, frost heave on the thufur area, and the mapping of permafrost and associated phenomena in the Zailiisky Alatau Range. In 1996 the monograph Geocryological Conditions of the Tien-Shan and Pamirs by A.P. Gorbunov, E.V. Seversky and S.N. Titkov was prepared for publication.

The Mongolian National Permafrost Association is pleased to acknowledge its membership in the International Permafrost Association. Mongolian geocryologists express their appreciation to the IPA Council and its officers.
In 1995, geocryologial field work was carried out on the Khan Khentei protected area, an area of more than 12,000 km² that embraces the Khentei Mountains. As a result of these and previous studies, maps at 1:500,000 of permafrost, seasonal freezing and thawing ground, and the distribution of cryogenic processes and phenomena have been prepared by N. Sharkhuu, D. Tumurbaatar and R. Lomborenchen. According to these maps, large parts of the territory are characterized by continuous permafrost with an average thickness between 50 and 200 m. Average depths of seasonal thaw are 1 to 3 m. There is widespread occurrence of surface icings and stone polygons. Permafrost aggradation associated with climatic change and hydrogeological conditions is observed at several sites.