1998

Permafrost underlies about 63% of Mongolia. To support studies of permafrost conditions for practical and scientific purposes N. Lonzhid organized a permafrost station in 1959. From 1962 to 1996 the station was run by the Department of Permafrost of the Institute of Geography and Geocryology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. It was renamed the Laboratory of Permafrost of the Institute of Geoecology in 1997. The department was headed by N. Lonzhid from 1962 to 1969, by N. Sharkhuu from 1970 to 1979, and by
D. Tumurbaatar since 1980. From 1962 to 1990 the department was staffed by 10–15 researchers and workers and had drilling equipment and a soils laboratory. Since 1990 it has had a smaller staff of 8–10 persons and has had to do without the drilling capability and the soils lab.

Within the 1997–98 New Zealand Antarctic Research Program studies of dry frozen permafrost were carried out by Doug Sheppard, New Zealand Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Iain Campbell, Land and Soil Consultancy, and William Mahaney, Atkinson College, Toronto. The till deposits studied are part of a high altitude sequence (around 1800 m elevation) which are believed to be old tills, possibly Miocene aged, deposited from a previous expansion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The main purpose of the investigation was to study the geochemistry of salt horizons within the permafrost and to obtain samples for Be-10 dating.
Recovery of two years of soil temperature data (Iain Campbell and Graeme Claridge) from a datalogger in a dry frozen soil has allowed the position of the permafrost table to be accurately determined. During 1998–99 summer installation of three soil temperature and moisture monitoring sites in the coastal McMurdo Sound–Dry Valley region is planned with the assistance of the USDA (John Kimble and Ron Paetzold). These sites will contribute to a more extensive Antarctic permafrost monitoring network.

A meeting was held in January 1998 at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. Fourteen representatives from universities and research institutes working with permafrost were present:

  • Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
  • University of Oslo, Department of Geography
  • Norwegian University for Science and Technology
  • University Studies on Svalbard
  • Norwegian Polar Research Institute
  • Norwegian Road Research Laboratory

A field trip and symposium were organized on behalf of the IGU Commission on Climate Change and Periglacial Environments from 26–29 August 1998 in Portugal, in conjunction with the IGU Regional Conference that took place in Lisbon (30 August –2 September). The field trip was dedicated to the glacial and periglacial geomorphology of the Serra da Estrela, and was organized by Antonio de Brum Ferreira and Gonçalo Teles Vieira (Centro de Estudos Geográficos, University of Lisbon). Thirteen visiting participants from Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark and Spain attended.
The highest mountains in Portugal (Serra da Estrela,1993 m asl) were glaciated by an ice cap and several valley glaciers during the Weichselian. The field trip focused on relict glacial and periglacial phenomena. The main aspects of the Pleistocene glaciation were presented and observed. Visits to periglacial sites included the observation of the head deposits of Sao Gabriel, the screes of Várzea do Crasto, the stratified coarse sand deposits of Barroca de Agua, and the Alto da Pedrice blockslope. The latter site presents a significant relict macrogelivation. The age of the deposit, its genesis and environmental conditions were discussed. Present-day cryogenic processes and their relationship with hydric and aeolian processes were also treated. The geomorphological significance of wind in the plateaus was observed in the Cantaro Raso and Fraga das Penhas areas.

Monitoring of permafrost conditions continues in the Retezat, Parâng and Fagaras Mountains (Southern Carpathians). The results of BTS and summer temperature measurements of springs situated at the base of block fields in the Apuseni Mountains (western part of Romanian Carpathians) indicate the existence of sporadic permafrost at low elevations (1050–1100 m asl). A map has been prepared on the geomorphologic risks associated with the Transfagarasan highway area, which is situated in the central part of the highest massif of Romania, the Fagaras Mountains (2544 m). A bibliography prepared on the glacial and periglacial geomorphological problems contains 332 references. Mapping and monitoring of periglacial processes in the Tarcu Mountains (C. Gruia), Lotrului Mountains (C. Ancuta), Surianu Mountains (L. Dragut) and Cernei Mountains (D. Gureanu) continue. A. Szepesi (Bucarest) in his doctoral dissertation modeled and identified the existence of permafrost in the Iezer Mountains.
Petru Urdea (urdea@cbg.uvt.ro)

This report summarizes activities for the period 1993– 1998. Many of the earlier activities were reported in detail in previous issues of Frozen Ground. Annual meetings of the Council on Earth Cryology were held in Pushchino, Moscow region, in late April of each year at the Institute of Soil Sciences and Photosynthesis, Russian Academy of Sciences. The 1993 meeting resulted in 80 papers on the subjects of general and engineering geocryology. In 1994, 93 papers were presented, many of which concerned global climate warming and permafrost. In 1995 the main topic of the meeting was evolutionary geocryological processes in the Arctic regions and global changes of the environment and climate in permafrost areas. A number of foreign scientists participated in the meetings.

The main focus of activity during the past year was on planning for the poster sessions and excursion linked to the INQUA conference that will be held in Durban, South Africa, in August 1999. A post-conference excursion to Sani Pass will be of particular interest to IPA and to its new Working Group on Southern Hemisphere Permafrost and Periglacial Environments (SHWG). The excursion will examine periglacial features, blockstreams, valley asymmetry, sedimentary successions and contemporary periglacial microforms on top of the Drakensberg and Lesotho mountains. A key issue will be the contrasting periglacial and glacial hypotheses for Pleistocene palaeoenvironments.
During the INQUA Congress two poster sessions with associated workshops will be of particular interest to IPA: Southern Hemisphere Periglacial Research and Quaternary Environmental Change (contact Jan Boelhouwers or Kevin Hall) and Current Periglacial Research and Palaeoclimatic Reconstruction (contact Stefan Grab or Ian Meiklejohn).

The third meeting of IPA–Spain was held in Andorra la Vella 17–19 July 1997. The 20 papers focused on the common theme of the dynamics and evolution of natural systems in cold climates and covered a range of geographical areas: the Iberian Peninsula (Pyrenees, Picos de Europa, the Galician and Portuguese massifs, Sierra de Gredos, Sierra Nevada), the Antarctic (South Shetland Islands), and Sweden (Tarfala Valley) (see Publications, page 41).
Three special talks helped unify the topics and provide a global perspective. Gérard Soutadé spoke about the importance of past and present cold-climate processes in the morphology of Andorra. André Baudière discussed the phytogeomorphological substitution taking place in the supraforest landscapes of the mountains in Catalonia. José L. Peña Monné summarized the status and prospects of current studies in Spain on cold-climate processes.

The following is a brief survey of groups having activities and interests in frozen ground and related topics.
Department of Physical Geography, Uppsala University:
The department has begun to emphasize research in cold climates concerning landforms, processes and dynamics, and their relationship to environmental conditions in the past and present.
Else Kolstrup has set up a research program on boundary constraints of geomorphological forms and processes in past and present periglacial environments. Several faculty and partly-NFR-funded subprojects involve a thesis study by Bo Westin on boundary constraints of thermal contraction cracking and research student Frieda Zuidhoff’s project on palsas in Lapland.
Philip Wookey, Else Kolstrup and Göran Possnert have recently begun an NFR-funded project Climate Change, Soil Organic Matter Lability and Decomposer Metabolism in High Latitude Soils in northern Iceland. Wookey is participating in an EU project Dynamic Response of the Forest–Tundra Ecotone to Environmental Change (DART). A research student, Sofie Sjögersten, is investigating soil processes and trace gas fluxes in relation to tree-line dynamics in Fennoscandia.

In collaboration among the Swiss Academy for Sciences (SAS), the Swiss Alpine Club, ETH Zurich and the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg, a project was set up to establish a concept for the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network. The stations are separated into three levels—low, middle and high-cost stations—mainly focusing on the thermal regime of the permafrost. Additional information is expected from other long-term observations like photogrammetry, borehole deformation, hydrology, etc.
Following the restructuring of the Glaciological Commission of SAS at the beginning of 1997, the task of this body has been expanded with respect to snow and permafrost. Delegates for glacier observation (M. Hoelzle) and for perma-frost (D. Vonder Mühll) were appointed. The latter is in charge of connecting with international organizations, and acts as the national contact for the IPA, the Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost of the SAS.