The following report presents highlights of some current permafrost studies in Russia. The Federal research subprogramme ‘Global Changes in Natural Environment and Climate’ unites geocryologists from different regions of Russia. Participating researchers come from institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), e.g. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics of RAS, Institute of Geography of RAS; its Siberian Division (SD RAS), e.g. Institute of Atmospheric Optics of SD RAS, Institute of Earth Cryosphere of SD RAS; North-Eastern Centre of the Pacific Division of RAS; as well as from Moscow Lomonosov State University, St. Petersburg State University and other leading academic institutions of Russia. Also, very popular in Russia still is the multiyear subprogramme ‘Comprehensive Studies of Oceans and Seas, Arctic and Antarctic’. It is implemented by the All-Russian Research Institute of Oceanology, United Institute of Permafrost and Use of Natural Resources of the Cryolithozone of SD RAS, Institute of Earth Cryosphere, Polar Geophysical Institute of the Kola Research Centre of RAS, North-Eastern Research Centre of the Pacific Division of RAS, Moscow Lomonosov State University, as well as the Arctic Murmansk Engineering- Geological Expedition and other large-production organizations.
Working over the lines of the above programmes, the Institute of Global Climate revealed ‘Echoes of land climate of some Russian regions’ to the warm stream El-Nino events that occur in the Pacific. The Institute of Computational Mathematics of RAS has developed a theory of the sensitivity of global atmospheric circulation to low-power permanent perturbations. Studies carried out at the Geography Faculty of Moscow State University and presented in the 1999 doctoral dissertation of K.S. Voskresensky entitled ‘Modern Relief-Forming Processes on Plains of Russian North’ have demonstrated the critical role in the relief-forming processes played by intrasecular changes in the temperature regime and the level of precipitation during the warm annual season. It has also been elucidated that cryogenic processes are characterized by cyclic development, whereas their energy is determined by the potential energy of the relief and a portion of the descending heat flux.
Field studies were performed in the Yugorsk Peninsula which yielded comprehensive (cryolithologic, chemical and isotopic) characteristics of massive ground ice. These field and laboratory studies were performed in collaboration with geologists from Göteborg University, Sweden, Institute of Earth Cryosphere of SD RAS, All- Russian Research Institute of Oceanic Geology, Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of RAS, and the Institute of Microbiology of RAS.
The reliability of identifying regions of perennially frozen deposits by electric and elastic properties of frozen deposits and ice (particularly ground ice) using technique reported in Frolov’s monograph ‘Electric and Elastic Properties of Frozen Deposits and Ice’ (1999), as well as in Doctoral dissertations of I.A. Komarov, R.I. Gavriliev, and others, is being studied. Field studies in the Laptev Sea basin support conclusions drawn by N. Romanovskii and H. Hubberten on the significance of paleo-reconstructions of interactions in the climate-land-sea system. In this context radically new geocryological modelling of the dyna– mics of the shelf and off-shore permafrost indicate four climatic and glacio-eustatic cycles (~ 420 000 years). This is based on the isotopic temperature curve derived from ice cores from the Vostok station in the Antarctic kindly provided by V.M. Kotlyakov. Also of interest is geocryological modelling of the dynamics of the shelf and off-shore cryolithozone, its interaction with the zone of stability of gas hydrates and gas fields, and modelling of cryogenic phenomena. The above-mentioned studies are carried out by the joint effort of Russian scientists from Moscow State University, P.I. Melnikov Permafrost Institute, St. Petersburg State University of Communications and German scientists: H. Hubberten, K. Siegert, V. Rachold, L. Schirmeister and others from the Potsdam Division of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Marine and Polar Studies. The annual meeting of geocryologists was held in Pushchino 20-23 April 1999, and for the first time the programme was shared with glaciologists. The theme of the international conference was “ Monitoring of the Cryosphere” and consisted of a series of plenary, paper and poster sessions and several panel and round table discussions. The annual meeting of the Consolidated Scientific Council for Earth Cryology, presided over by Vladimir P. Melnikov, was held on the last day of the conference, and included a discussion of plans for the next conference in May 2000 on the theme “Rythyms of natural processes in the Earth Cryosphere”.
New geocryological data are presented in more detail in the Russian-language journal “Kriosphera Zemli” (The Earth Cryosphere), and national and foreign specialists are invited to subscribe to it. The English version of the 16-sheet Geocryological Map of Russia and Neighbouring Republics has recently been published. The English version of this very detailed map, important to industrial and government users as well as to permafrost scientists, is a project of Cambridge, Moscow State and Carleton Universities. Full details with map examples are given on the http://www.freezingground.org/map or may be obtained by writing to Collaborative Map Project c/o Geotechnical Science Laboratories, Carleton University, Ottawa, K1S 5B6, Canada.