In 2006, Russian research covered regional permafrost conditions, cryolithozone dynamics under natural and human impact, cryogenic processes and phenomena, permafrost mapping and zonation.
The Permafrost Institute, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS) analyzed the oxygen isotopic composition of deep sediments from the Pacific Ocean. The time-and-frequency analysis shows that the temperature began to drop 3.5 million years ago. 700,000 to one million years later, glaciation and permafrost formation began in high-latitude continental areas. During the Pleistocene, between 40,000 and 100,000 years ago, these processes had a self-oscillating character (Balobaev et al.). A period of continuous permafrost degradation in the zone between 59 and 62º N coincides with thermochrone (127,000-117,000 BP). In the frozen deposits formed earlier pseudomorphs replaced syngenetic ice. A multifactor model of cryogenic processes dynamics was developed. According to its results, around the middle of the 21st century the 2-4° C warmer atmosphere will induce a significant unsteadiness of the Arctic permafrost. That can lead to catastrophic acceleration of cryogenic processes, especially in the regions of intensive nature management. Partial or full degradation of the ground ice massifs is expected in the upper layers of the Arctic coastal cryolithozone.
The Institute of Earth Cryosphere (SB RAS) established some data-based cartographical models for contemporary climate changes and cryolithozone. The mean annual air temperature increase was subdivided into four categories, from very weak (= 0.3° C) to strong (> 1° C). Half of the northern Russian territory was characterized by strong warming; a fifth by a moderate warming; a third by a weak or very weak warming. Air temperature trends are linked to the dynamics of the permafrost at its southern border, and to geological and landscape characteristics (A. Pavlov, G. Malkova). The patterns of marine coastal dynamics within the Russian cryolithozone were highlighted. In the western sector of the Russian Arctic, the sediment discharge caused by coastal erosion is comparable to the sediment derived from the large rivers (A. Vasiliev). A set of maps on permafrost dynamics in Siberia during the last 18,000 years was prepared on the basis of the complex method including frozen facies analysis (E. Slagoda et al.). Cryolithological and cryogeochemical field studies at the Kara sea coast allowed to conclude that tabular ground ice bodies exposed at the coastal sections and found in the multiple boreholes of Yamal peninsula are resulting as a rule from joint action of water migration and intrusion resulting in ice accumulation at the interface of underlying sandy and covering clayey deposits of deltaic to marine origin. These mechanisms can explain deformations in the horizontal ice beds, as well as domeshaped complications within these beds. (M.O. Leibman).
At the Permafrost Institute (SB RAS), an engineering system was developed for flooding control and cryogenic processes protection in the area of Yakutsk city.
At the Department of Geocryology, Moscow State University (MSU) the new scenario of Laptev Sea transgression in late Pleistocene-Holocene was worked out. It takes into account lake thermokarst and thermal abrasion as factors of the ice complex destruction on the shelf (A. Gavrilov et al.). Frozen and thawed soils were sampled on Bykovsky peninsula (northern Yakutia) while drilling the bottom sediments of the thermokarst lakes and lagoons. Their chemical and mineral composition, cryogenic structure and basic physical properties were investigated (V. Cheverev, I. Vidjapin, V. Tumskoy). The influence of the swamps on the permafrost temperature regime during Holocene was investigated by E. Ospennikov.
The Department of Glaciology and Cryolithology (MSU) established that river run-off in permafrost area has a higher content of soluble components. This could be explained by cryogenic weathering. The losses of soluble components during repetitive freezing and thawing of the ground were calculated for various types of rocks and minerals. For the regions of Yenisei Gorlo and the Yenisei Gulf, new data were received (in collaboration with the Institute of Earth Cryosphere) on the ice complex distribution and deposits of the massive ice.
At the Faculty of Geography (MSU), theoretical and experimental modeling of intrusion massive ice formation was undertaken. It was shown that in the coastal zone, when seafloor clayey sediments start freezing and form frozen patches, pressure appears in the yet unfrozen subsea clay to produce effect of water intrusion into the frozen zone forming massive ice bodies of ‘pingo’ origin. (V. Golubev).
Various projects are carried out on permafrost engineering. A survey in Norilsk has showed that almost 40 % of all buildings have deformations or disturbances associated with ground temperature of foundations. It is established that cryogenic weathering and the high corrosive impact of ground water play a large role in the destruction of foundations and surface structures (Dept. of Glaciology and Cryolithology, MSU).
For the northeastern part of European Russia and the northern part of West Siberia, a geocryological forecast for the next 300 years (E. Ershov, S. Parmuzin, L. Khrustalev et al.; Dept. of Geocryology, MSU) indicates that, due to climate warming, a significant rise in ground temperature is expected, accompanied by permafrost degradation. These processes lead to the destruction of the northern infrastructures.
PNIIIS provided the engineering-geological zonation of cryogenic hazards for the territory of projected railroad in West Siberia, near the Ural Mountains. It gave recommendations for the engineering protection of construction.
The technique and equipment has been developed for the S-waves seismic survey of high resolution. This allows revealing ice bodies on the slopes and shallow shelf (A. Skvortsov, Institute of Earth Cryosphere, SB RAS).
Questions linked to the physics and chemistry of frozen ground continued to attract the attention of researchers. The Department of Geocryology, MSU, conducted experimental studies of frozen ground durability and creep, and studied in parallel the main physical properties including unfrozen water content as related to temperature (L. Roman, S. Volokhov, L. Shevchenko). By analyzing desulphatization curves, I. Komarov and N. Volcov presented a method for estimating the temperature of solution formation. It was applied to the evaluation of the temperature conditions of cryopeg fprmation and natural waters in the Yamal Peninsula. This showed that cryopegs induce a warming in the underlying deposits. Its total mineralization may change twice and more per season. Experimental researches were carried out on the physical properties and phase composition of soils polluted by oil products, with consideration for the pollutant type and the duration of contamination. This research takes into account the influence of coagulation contacts and the role of microorganisms. Continuous efforts are aimed at developing combined measurements of electric and acoustic properties of frozen soils. Electrometric equipment was tested under field conditions (Y. Zykov, R. Motenko, A. Koshurnikov, I. Anisimova).
The studies of gas hydrate continued. At the Institute of Earth Cryosphere (SB RAS), the surfactant admixture effect on the gas-hydrate crystallization was ascertained. This expands the possibilities of hydrate technologies for natural gases storage and transportation (A. Nesterov). E. Chuvilin and his colleagues (Department of Geocryology, MSU) experimentally established the temperature-pressure characteristics and kinetics of hydrates CO2 and CO4 in ground saturated with porous gas. They experimentally tested gas hydrates self-conservation in frozen deposits. Resulting data indicate the influence of temperature, ice content and soil type on the kinetics of gas hydrates dissociation in the soils artificially saturated with hydrates. Full attenuation of the dissociation and self-conservation of CO2 hydrate becomes apparent only at temperatures below –13º C. Gas hydrates self-conservation is favoured by the porous ice (not transferred into hydrate).
Instrumental observations and monitoring presented an important part of the current Russian activities. PNIIS prepared a document entitled «Regulations of the engineering - geocryological monitoring at the construction development of territories». This standard was utilized in the oilfields in northeastern part of European Russia, and in the Koryak District’s heat stations.
The Permafrost Institute (SB RAS) conducted projects within a program for Northern Asia geocryological monitoring. For the northwestern part of the Siberian platform, a set of geothermo-geocryological cross-sections was established to depths down to 3000 m. New data were collected at the permafrost stations and polygons located in Eastern Siberia: moisture and temperature regime of the cryolithozone upper horizons, greenhouse gas emissions, intensity of cryogenic processes and dynamics of the maninduced cryopegs. Using temperature measurements in boreholes allowed evaluating permafrost thickness in Mesozoic depressions of the Aldan shield. Non-uniformly scaled maps were drawn for Yakutia’s cryogenic landscapes and their resistance to human impact.
The Institute of Environmental Geoscience (RAS) started geothermal research in cooperation with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It is conducted in the Chara Region (Northern Transbaykalia) within the IPY Permafrost Observatories Project: Thermal State of Permafrost (IPY EoI-125 and Project 50). The Chara Region is characterized by extremely varying periglacial features, including kurums, thermal erosion forms, rock glaciers, icings, ice-wedge polygons. The 2006 surveys focused on early Holocene syngenetic ice wedges. A group of four researchers studied the zones with active, passive and relict periglacial phenomena in different altitudinal levels. They restored two old 20-m deep boreholes as a part of the Northern Transbaykalia Mountain Permafrost Observatory. A specially isolated pit-camera was also installed in the kurum body for detailed observation of the active layer and its thermal and hydrologic conditions. These equipments are monitored by automated loggers’ thermometricsystems.
Research on planetary cryology are pursued at the Department of Geocryology (MSU) in collaboration with the Institute of Geochemistry (RAS). Comparison of data on polygons from Mars (Northern Plains, Plateau Utopia, etc.) and the Earth (Novosibirsk Islands, Yamal Peninsula, archipelago Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, Victoria Land in Antarctica, etc.) and modelling these polygons size suggest that polygonal features in high latitude regions on Mars result from frost cracking. Ongoing research is developing a feature classification and a map on frost cracking distribution on Mars (I. Komarov, V. Isaev and R. Kuzmin).
The International Conference «Earth Cryosphere Assessment: Theory, Applications and Prognosis of Alterations » was held in Tyumen, May 29-31, 2006. Many important problems related to geocryology and cold region development were discussed. The participants particularly appreciated the good organization of scientific excursions and the interesting cultural program. A number of Russian specialists took part in the first Asian Conference on Permafrost, in August in Lanzhou; and they were impressed by the Conference organization, the progress of Chinese colleagues in permafrost sciences and engineering, and the traditional Chinese hospitality.
The annual review of Russian projects for the International Polar Year took place at Scohi, October 2006. Reports included progress on thermal state of permafrost and coastal projects.
The Tyument State Oil and Gas University (TSOGU) educates specialists in oil and gas engineering for the Ural region and Siberia. Its Department of the Earth Cryology, created in 2002, is organizing an educational Subarctic Center, aiming to educate MSc and PhD students in the natural and technical aspect of cryogenic environments. This center has also five monitoring observatories, collecting meteorological data and temperature data from the upper permafrost. The gas company «Nadymgasprom» is supporting TSOGU at installing a Soil-Climate Station on the Yamal Peninsula and at organizing a summer Field Permafrost Courses within the IPY (Infrastructure Action INTAS # 04-87-689).
We announce with deep regret the death of prominent Russian researchers Anatoly Frolov, Andrey Sadovsky, Anatoly Kotov and Evgeny Melnikov.
Georgy Perlshtein and Dmitry Sergueev (firstname.lastname@example.org)