In April 1998, the Mountain Permafrost Research Group (Chair, N. Matsuoka) was founded within the Japanese Geographical Union. This research group aims at encouraging permafrost studies in the Japanese high mountains where permafrost has been reported only on two volcanoes, Fuji and Daisetsu. However, permafrost is expected to be found on other, non-volcanic mountains, e.g. the Japanese Alps. Programs include mapping of past and present permafrost, monitoring of ground temperature and slope processes, and geophysical soundings.
Since 1994, a geomorphological group (N. Matsuoka, K. Hirakawa, T. Watanabe and others) has conducted field studies in the Engadin area, Switzerland, in cooperation with W. Haeberli, F. Keller and A. Kääb. The purpose is to understand the combination of active layer and permafrost processes on mountain slopes. Research topics also include rock glacier metamorphosis due to permafrost thawing and lithology in rock glacier morphology. Both are essential for understanding rock glaciers in Japanese mountains. Studies on rock glaciers and other permafrost-related landforms also continue in the Himalayas (T. Watanabe and S. Iwata) and Antarctica (T. Sone and H. Miura).
To better understand the energy and water cycle in permafrost areas, the international project GAME–Siberia is underway, mainly with Japanese, Russian and American scientists. Two observation stations are located in the Lena River basin at Spasskaya Pad near Yakutsk (taiga lowlands) and at Tiksi (tundra). A site for mountainous taiga will be established this year in Tynda at the southern boundary of the Lena River basin. A 32-m meteorological tower equipped with various kinds of sensors, including sonic anemometers, provides many kinds of hydrometeorological elements above and within the taiga forest canopy and soil.
The hydrological characteristics of a small tundra watershed in the vicinity of Tiksi are under study. An Automatic Climate Observation System (ACOS) with a 10-m mast was installed for meteorological observations that primarily focus on energy and water fluxes above the surface of the tundra. A CALM grid was also established at this site by Larry Hinzman in 1997.
During 1998, the GAME project is undertaking an Intensive Observation Period (IOP), and many GAME–Siberia researchers from Japan and Russia are visiting the Spasskaya Pad and Tiksi stations. It is expected that data will become available worldwide for researchers via the Internet after quality control of the raw data is accomplished. Some in situ data recorded at the Russian hydrometeorological network are being archived by GAME–Siberia; it is hoped that those data sets will become available in the future.
An emerging international research project in a discontinuous permafrost region is the Yukon Water and Energy Budget Experiment (YuWEX). Intensive field research is being conducted in the Caribou–Poker Creeks Research Watershed, about 50 km north of Fairbanks, Alaska, and on the Yukon River near Stevens Village and Pilot Station. This research is sponsored by the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center. The lead investigators include Nobuyoshi Ishikawa from the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, and Atsushi Sato from the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention in Shinjo. The U.S. collaborator is Larry Hinzman from the Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
In October 1997 the Frontier Research System for Global Change (FRSGC) was established with its head office in Tokyo. It consists of three research institutes, the Institute for Global Change Research (IGCR: Tokyo and Tsukuba), the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC: Hawaii) and the International Arctic Research Center (IARC: Alaska). The FRSGC had 79 scientists as of August 1998. Detailed information on FRSGC activities can be obtained at their Web site, http://www.frontier.esto.or.jp/.
Norikazu Matsuoka (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rikie Suzuki (email@example.com) Nobuyoshi Ishikawa (firstname.lastname@example.org) Atsushi Sato (email@example.com)