Between 1996 and 1997 research focused on the following study areas:
Laguna del Diamante, Cordillera Principal (34°S), Mendoza. At this site different periglacial geomorphological, sedimentological and paleoclimatic studies are carried out. In 1996, and with the support of the geocryology research team and the cooperation of other researchers at the Argentinean Institute of Ice, Snow and Environmental Research (IANIGLA), a report was prepared on the possible harm to the environment and the dangers that could result from construction of a gas pipeline from Argentina to Chile.
Lagunita del Plata, Cordillera Frontal (33°S), Mendoza. Periglacial long-term studies which had been interrupted in 1987 were resumed with geodetic measurements and geocryological investigations. Data on solifluction at a height of 4000–4500 m a.s.l. were updated. Geoelectrical measurings and geodetic calculations were made. Field work at this study site provided support for the General Irrigation Department of the Province of Mendoza and nearby communities. This work was carried out with the cooperation of E. Buk, José Hernández and José Corvalán.
Expedition to the Mesón San Juan, Cordillera Principal (33°33′S), Mendoza. The aim of the expedition was to drill into the upper ice of the glacier of the Mesón San Juan (6035 m a.s.l.) in order to analyze the glacial stratigraphy. It was organized by the Laboratory for Glacial Stratigraphy and Geochemistry of Water and Snow (Alberto Aristarain, Conicet and National Antarctic Institute) and carried out with the logistical help of the Argentine Army. The success of the expedition was limited by the considerable retreat of the glacier and the presence of penitentes up to 5 m high on its surface. At the same time periglacial studies had as their initial objective the distinction of different altitudinal levels of the cryogenic environment, the distinction of cryogenic geoforms, and the detection of “quasi-continuous” permafrost. Geophysical radar soundings were made on a cryoplanation surface close to a glacier at 4335 m a.s.l., in order to indirectly determine the occurrence of permafrost. These studies were made with the help of J. Travassos, geophysicist from the CNP National Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Valley of La Esperanza, Southern Andes (42°32′S), Chubut. Research was conducted on paleoclimate in the Southern Andes with R. Villalba from the Laboratory of Dendrochronology (IANIGLA). Trees (Fitzroya cupressoides) older than 2000 years were discovered. An important geomorphological inventory (GPS mapping) of the study area was accomplished.
In addition, the following activities were carried out:
A postgraduate course in geocryology was prepared. Formal preparations for a postgraduate course on present and fossil permafrost were completed at the University of Tucumán. The course will be presented by Dario Trombotto and A.-L. Ahuma, da Lillo Fundation, San Miguel de Tucumán.
Dr. Trombotto was invited by K. Shimokawa, Sapporo University, to take part in an academic exchange concerning present periglacial investigations in the mountains of Hokkaido, Japan, and the Andes of Mendoza. Japanese researchers presented their studies on palsas and the degradation of permafrost due to climatic changes. An expedition will be conducted to the Daisetsuzan Mountains, Hokkaido, by Prof. Shimokawa, N. Takahashi and K. Sato (Hokkai-Gakuen University), and Hai Yin (Urümqi University, China).
A revised proposal was resubmitted to the Inter-American Institute (IAI) for its global change program entitled Development of the Southern Hemisphere Sector of a Mountain-Climate Permafrost Network. The proposal focused on the establishment of the Southern Hemisphere sector of a north–south transect from northern Canada to southern Argentina to provide data on permafrost distribution and environments along the eastern Cordillera of the Americas. These measurements involved drilling of access holes into the unconsolidated frozen overburden and bedrock and placement of ground temperature cables at key sites, accompanied by automated microclimatic stations. Because of the interannual variability of climate, long-term installations are essential. Unfortunately, the proposal was declined by IAI; but since it has similar objectives and approaches to the European-funded PACE program, other sources of support will continue to be explored. This program could become associated with a new IPA working group on the Southern Hemisphere and be coordinated with similar studies in Antarctica.
Submitted by Arturo Corte (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dario Trombotto (email@example.com)