The Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union was held in San Francisco, California, December 13–17. A number of oral and poster sessions on all aspects of the cryosphere were convened under the auspices of the Cryosphere Committee. Included were sessions on the role of permafrost coasts in the Arctic system; changes in frozen ground, environmental and climatic impacts; paleoecological approaches to Late Quaternary climate change; and Arctic freshwater cycles.
The U.S. Permafrost Association held its annual Board and Members meetings during the AGU Meetings. President Tart and incoming President Vladimir Romanovsky chaired the business meeting. Plans for the Ninth International Conference on Permafrost (NICOP) in June 2008 were reviewed including the formation of the U.S. National Committee for NICOP. The annual elections resulted in the new members of the Board of Directors: F.E. Nelson (President-Elect), David Norton (Member) and Jon Zufelt (Secretary). During the year the USPA was represented at several meetings of the American Geological Institute (AGI). USPA is one of the 43 Member Society Council of the AGI (www.agiweb.org). USPA cosponsored the Alaska Section’s American Water Resources Association conference in Fairbanks in April.
F.E. Nelson provided the following report on the Association of American Geographers (AAG). The AAG held its national meeting March 15–19 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania., marking its Centennial Anniversary in the city of its original convention. With more than 7500 members, the AAG is one of the largest national geographical organizations in the world with members from 62 countries. The AAG is organized around a series of 54 Specialty Groups representing core areas of geographical research. The group of most interest in permafrost is the Cryosphere Specialty Group, formed in the mid-1990s by H. Jesse Walker. Other AAG subdivisions with topical interests overlapping those of IPA include the Climate, Geomorphology, Mountain, Biogeography, and Water Resources Specialty Groups.
The Cryosphere Specialty Group sponsored seven sessions associated with the theme “Celebrating a Century of Physical Geography” (CCPG), and involved 60 contributing authors. They were co-sponsored by the Geomorphology, Climate, and Biogeography Specialty Groups, and the Archives and Association History Committee. Many of the papers delivered in the CCPG sessions will be published in several special issues of the journal Physical Geography edited by Dorothy Sack. CCPG also sponsored an evening reception attended by more than 300 people.
The AAG Centennial Meeting also featured several sessions addressing contemporary cold-regions topics under the title “Cryosphere in the 21st Century.” Organized by Alan Frei (Hunter College), these sessions incorporated presentations on permafrost, periglacial geomorphology, glaciology, sea ice, cold climates, and snow cover. The AAG’s 2005 annual meeting will be held April 5-9, in Denver, Colorado. More than 50 presentations on various aspects of the cryosphere are scheduled (www. aag.org).
Rupert (Bucky) Tart provided the following report on recent activities of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Technical Council on Cold Regions (TCCRE) accomplished the following this year:
- Completed and published a new 492-page monograph titled “Thermal Analysis, Construction and Monitoring Methods for Frozen Ground”.
- Co-hosted the 12th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering (ICCRE) held in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 16–19, 2004, in cooperation with the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers.
- Three TCCRE members (Tom Krzewinski, Bucky Tart and Hanalee Zubeck) accompanied ASCE president Pat Galloway on a visit to Finland on June 26– 30, 2004. They assisted by making presentations to Finnish engineers at various meetings.
- TCCRE members arranged sessions and gave presentations at the Winter Cities Conference held in Anchorage on February 18-20, 2004.
- Three TCCRE awards were presented at the Edmonton Cold Regions Conference, including the Eb Rice Memorial Lecture award to Dr. Robert Carlson of UAF, the Can-AM CE Amity award to Mr. James C. McDougall of North 60 Engineering in Calgary, and the Harold R. Peyton award to Dr. Dan Smith of the University of Alberta.
TCCRE EXCOM and the various TCCRE committees met once during the year, just prior to the 12th ICCRE at Edmonton, Alberta and again in Duluth on October 30 to develop next year’s budget. TCCRE is continuing to work on organizing the upcoming 13th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering at Bangor, Maine in 2006, planning and preparation of several new Cold Regions Monographs, and planning and editing papers for the Journal of Cold Regions Engineering. Dave Esch is the incoming Chairman of the TCCRE and Bucky Tart is the new Vice Chairman.
Fritz Nelson and Kolia Shiklomanov report that the University of Delaware Permafrost Group (UDPG) continues its research on active-layer processes in northern Alaska. Two new grants were approved by the U.S. National Science Foundation; the CALM grant to extend support for Eurasian and Alaskan sites for an additional five years, and a collaborative grant with Tingjun Zhang (University of Colorado), Vlad Romanovsky (University of Alaska), and Oleg Anisimov (State Hydrological Institute, St. Petersburg) to compare and evaluate modelling strategies for mapping permafrost under climate-change scenarios. Anna Klene moved to the University of Montana’s geography programme and continues her work in northern Alaska. Cathy Seybold (Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA) has taken over management of instrumental arrays from Ron Paetzold. Dmitri Streletskiy, a master’s student in geocryology at Moscow State University spent two semesters and the 2004 field season with UDPG. Mary Lemcke completed her MS thesis on sediment-filled wedges in central Delaware. Andrea Wedo is conducting a quantitative study of the sediments in a large boulder field in east-central Pennsylvania. Michael Walegur maintains a network of climate instruments at high elevation for a transect from Maine to North Carolina. Kim Gregg completed a thesis on the paleoclimatic implications of blockfield distribution in the Appalachian. Mark Demitroff, who works collaboratively on paleoperiglacial problems in southern New Jersey with Hugh French, has joined us as a graduate student. Silvia Cruzatt, is installing CALM-type instrumental arrays at high elevation in the Peruvian Andes. Fritz Nelson delivered the Blackwell Geomorphology and Society address at the AAG conference and a plenary lecture at the 30th Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.
Larry Hinzman reports that the faculty and staff of the University of Alaska Water and Environmental Research Center continued studies in various aspects of permafrost hydrology. Daniel White is leading an investigation to document the long-term changes in water resource use on the Seward Peninsula. A component of this project is to model the current permafrost distribution as well as that in 1900 and 2100 and determine the consequent impacts on the hydrology. Kenji Yoshikawa continues his studies on periglacial processes including aufeis development, pingo formation and polygon networks. Horacio Toniolo and Debasmita Misra have initiated studies on sediment transport during thermokarst formation. Douglas Kane is continuing the long-term study of permafrost hydrology in the Kuparuk watershed. We also continue studies to examine the impact of wildfires on permafrost regime and the effects of thermokarsting on the local hydrology.
Vladimir Romanovsky (Geophysical Institute, UAF) reports that the Permafrost Laboratory continued to collect data on the active layer and permafrost temperatures at more than 60 locations within Alaska and in the Canadian Arctic. During the last year, two new permafrost observatories were established. One in Gakona area where air, active layer and permafrost (down to 30 metres) temperatures and soil moisture (down to 5 metres) are measured at hourly resolution. Another site was established near Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, Canada, as part of Walker’s Biocomplexity project. We also continued the modelling of permafrost dynamics, both at site-specific and spatially distributed levels. Modelling of permafrost dynamics at four different sites on Seward Peninsula was undertaken. The modelling results explained the differences in permafrost evolution at the locations were permafrost presently exists and where it is absent. Spatially distributed model of permafrost dynamics was established for northern Alaska (north from 648N) for the time period between 1900 and 2100.
Tom Osterkamp reports that permafrost temperatures have been measured in boreholes along a north-south transect of Alaska for a quarter century. These measurements show a recent and strong warming at all the sites except one. In cooperation with Janet Jorgenson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, additional measurements of permafrost temperatures were made over a two decade period (1985–2004) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Interpretation of these measurements indicates that the century-long warming documented for the central and western Arctic has also occurred in the region near Barter Island and in this area north of the Brooks Range.
Gary Clow and Frank Urban (U.S. Geological Survey) continued to expand the Department of the Interior’s network of active-layer monitoring stations in northern Alaska under the GTN-P programme. A major upgrade to the network to improve its long-term reliability was completed during August 2004. Three additional stations were also installed, bringing the total number of DOI active-layer monitoring stations in northern Alaska to 14; ten in the NPRA while the remaining four are in the ANWR. Improvements to DOI’s GTN-P deep borehole array in the NPRA was also initiated in anticipation of the TSP campaign. The use of coiled tubing technology to drill new deep boreholes in permafrost is being investigated.
Tim Collett, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), reports that under the U.S. Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds laboratory and field research on both Arctic and marine gas hydrates. Among the current Arctic studies, British Petroleum Exploration Alaska and DOE have undertaken a project to characterize, quantify, and determine the commercial viability of gas hydrates and associated free gas resources in the Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River, and Milne Point field areas in northern Alaska. The University of Alaska in Fairbanks, the University of Arizona in Tucson, and U.S. Geological Survey are also participating in the Alaska British Petroleum project. Also in northern Alaska the Bureau of Land Management, the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, and the USGS are assessing and characterizing the resource potential of selected gas-hydrate/free-gas accumulations on public lands. Information from this study will then be used to assess and characterize the gas hydrate potential in the NPRA, ANWR, and the State lands. The goal of this joint work is to assess the economically recoverable resource potential of gas hydrates and associated free gas accumulations in northern Alaska by 2007.
D.A. Walker (UAF) reports that a team of 24 people from Fairbanks and other organizations worked at Inuvik and Mould Bay, Prince Patrick Island, during the period July 12–27, 2004, as part of the NSF project “Biocomplexity associated with biogeochemical cycles in arctic frostboil ecosystems. The main objective of the research is to investigate frost-boil ecosystems along a climate gradient from the coldest parts of the Arctic to the northern boreal forest. This year the project established three new 10-¥10-m grids: one near Inuvik in a lichen-woodland and two at Mould Bay. Patterned-ground formation includes the development of contraction cracks, differential frost heave, and the development of a vegetation mat. The strength of these processes varies across the climate gradient and interact to form small non-sorted polygons, sorted and non-sorted circles, and large well-vegetated mounds.
Ron Sletten, Bernard Hallet, Birgit Hagedorn (University of Washington) undertook the third year of the multidisciplinary NSF study in the vicinity of the Thule Air Base, Greenland. The project “Biocomplexity of carbon cycling in the High Arctic” is conducted with Jeff Welker (University of Alaska, Anchorage), Heidi Seltzer and Patrick Sullivan (Colorado State University), and Josh Schimel (the University of California, Santa Barbara). The primary goals are to investigate physical, chemical, and biological interactions and feedback on carbon flux, weathering, and ecosystem dynamics. Study sites are established along a vegetation-density transect from sea level to the ice cap. We have continuous monitoring of meteorology, soil temperature to 1.4 m, soil water content utilizing true TDR, river stage, and snow depth. In summer 2004, we used a backhoe to excavate a 30-m long, 1.5-m wide, approximately 1-m deep trench (below the frost table) across a series of non-sorted stripes to study cryoturbation and its role in burying carbon (see photo). Jennifer Horwath, PhD student, is assessing the below ground carbon content to below the base of the active layer (approx 1 m). Preliminary results indicate that current estimates of organic carbon in High Arctic systems may be underestimated since previous estimates did not account for organics moved to depth via cryoturbation. Heather Heuser, also a PhD student, is studying the history of the Thule area by analyzing 18O in diatoms from lake cores.
The University of Washington group continued work in Antarctic focusing on the contraction crack dynamics and renewal rates in polygon-covered surfaces in the Dry Valleys. In a recent paper (Ng, et al.) the age of sublimation till overlying buried ice in Beacon Valley suggests that till formed during ice sublimation occurred in the past several hundred thousand years; this is inconsistent with other reports of this ice being over 8 million years old. For further information see (http://depts.washington.edu/icylands).
Ron Paetzold (retired, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) reports that there are seven active CALM soil climate stations in Antarctica: Scott Base, Marble Point, Bull Pass, Victoria Valley, Mt. Fleming, Minna Bluff, and Granite Harbour. Routine maintenance was performed on and data retrieved from these stations in January 2004. CDs with the processed data for these stations are available.
Nicole Mölders and her group at the Geophysical Institute evaluated the frozen soil/permafrost module of the Hydro-Thermodynamic Soil-Vegetation Scheme (HTSVS), which is applied in several weather prediction models and has been implemented in the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). They compared simulated and observed soil temperatures for various sites in the Baltic region (from the WINTEX/NOPEX campaign) and Alaska to detect and remove model shortcomings. Narapusetty, a graduate student is currently working on the development of an improved numerical scheme for the frozen soil/permafrost module to better capture the discontinuities in soil variables and parameters along the freezing line.
Leslie A. Viereck, Boreal Ecology Cooperative Research Unit, Fairbanks, with the help of the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological research (LTER) contiues to maintain three of the interior Alaska CALM sites; Pearl Creek (since 1965), Wickersham fire site (since 1971), and the FP5C site. A Wickersham fire poster on the effect of wildfire and fireline construction on the annual depth of thaw in a blackspruce/permafrost site in interior Alaska (a 33-year record) showed contrary to our original prediction that a shallow active layer did not return to the site by a gradual freezing back from the lower depth, but rather by the formation of a layer of seasonal frost that eventually remained frozen throughout the entire year.
Craig Tweedle of the Arctic Ecology Laboratory, Michigan State University in collaboration with Nuna Technologies indicates significant developments on the Barrow Area Information Database and Internet Map Server (BAID-IMS, (ims.arcticscience.org/) and the Circumarctic Environmental Observatories Network Internet Map Server (CEON-IMS, (www.ceonims.org/). Each application has the same basic GIS functions, which allow users to query and search site-based information, select and buffer features (points, lines, polygons), measure distance, change units (feet, metres, miles, and kilometers), identify features, change scale (by zooming in or zooming out) and print. BAID-IMS covers a total area of the application of approximately 280,000 km2. The CEONIMS application extends from 45 degrees north and includes circum-arctic thematic data such as bathymetry and topography, land cover and permafrost, some satellitederived products. For example, users can link to more than 3500 WMO stations reporting real time weather data and long-term climatic averages north of 45 degrees north.
Tingjun Zhang reports on a number of frozen ground activities at the National Snow and Ice Data Center/WDC for Glaciology, University of Colorado at Boulder. The NSF-funded project with Zhang, Roger Barry, David Gilichinsky continues to recover, collect, digitize, and archive historical soil temperatures for up to 400 stations from the Former Soviet Union. Based on in-situ measurements, thawing index, and numerical modelling, Zhang investigated the spatial and temporal variability of active layer thickness over the Russian Arctic drainage basin. Zhang and Armstrong for the NASA/NOAA GEWEX American Prediction Program (GAPP) investigated the spatial and temporal variations of seasonally frozen ground in the contiguous United States. Using passive microwave remote sensing data and numerical modelling, they developed the NSIDC Frozen Soil Algorithm to detect near-surface (<10 cm) soil freeze-thaw cycles in the Northern Hemisphere. Zhang and Barry continue the IARC-funded Permafrost Data Assembly project. This activity is producing value-added products such as gridded soil temperature, active layer thickness, permafrost distribution, snow thickness and air temperature for the region north of 508N. Zhang with Nikolai Shiklomanov (University of Delaware) are involved in a permafrost modelling comparison at selected locations and regions. Dr. Svetlana Chudinova, Pushchino, was a NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at NSIDC working on the effects of 20th century climate change on the soil temperature regimes in the regions of perennially and seasonally-frozen ground of Russia.
Torre Jorgenson, ABR, Fairbanks, compiled for the Nature Conservancy a new ecosystems map of northern Alaska. It and more detailed US reports are posted on the USPA web site (www.uspermafrost.org). Please sign up to receive information on the 2008 conference.