Major activities included the permafrost research for the China-Russia Oil Pipeline, continued research and monitoring on the operating Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Highway, the feasibility study on the Qinghai-Tibet Expressway, and the Sino-German expeditions to the Western Kunlun Mountains. Permafrost-related meetings include the Sino-German Symposium on the Qinghai- Tibet Plateau Research, the CliC conference and the Symposium on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
China-Russia Pipeline Permafrost Research: The China-Russia Oil Pipeline is designed to transport unheated Siberian crude oil at about 600,000 bpd by modified burial across 1,030 km of frozen ground. Construction is scheduled to be between November 2007 and July 2008. The design is significantly challenged by frost heave. Detailed surveys of permafrost conditions along the pipeline route, and construction modes were conducted. Permafrost forecasts, thermal and strain/stress analyses, measures to mitigate frost hazards, and the system for long-term monitoring on pipe-soil interactions and early warning of developing frost hazards were conducted. About 500 boreholes were drilled and cored for analyses, and frozen ground conditions were evaluated and predicted. Engineering measures, such as excavation and back filling, insulation, and drainage control, were proposed and adopted for mitigating frost hazards for pipeline foundations. H. Jin and Y. Sheng from the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soils Engineering (CAS-SKLFSE-CAREERI) are the lead scientists on the projects, and they plan to present papers at NICOP.
Permafrost investigation in the western part of Northeastern China: A team of eight scientists conducted field investigations on the distribution and relict periglacial phenomena in the western part of Northeastern China, i.e., from Mo’he to Gulian, Mangui on the western slopes of the Da Xing’anling Mountains, to Hailar and other regions on the Hulunber Plain, southwards to permafrost areas in the Arshan Mountains. Many involutions and soil/ sand wedges were discovered and sampled for analyses. An inactive ice wedge group associated with polygonal morphology was excavated and sampled for detailed analyses.
Sino-German Joint Permafrost Research on Western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: To further understand the degradation process of permafrost on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its environmental impacts, a Sino-German joint team from the Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Heidelberg, Germany, and CAS-SKLFSE-CAREERI conducted comparative research on warm permafrost (>-1°C) in the eastern part, and cold (<-4 °C) permafrost in the Tianshuihai Lake region in the western part. The ecological environments in the Tianshuihai region have changed greatly during the past 30 years; large areas of vegetation have degraded or disappeared, with considerable surface soil salinization. Small pingos, unsorted circles, sand wedges and polygons were identified. In addition to the three stations established at Zuimatan, Qumahe and Chumaerhe in 2006, a fourth long-term monitoring station was established in the Tianshuihai Lake region in the Western Kunlun Mountains in August-September 2007, with the purpose of comparative studies of regional differential response of permafrost to climate changes. Conventional exploratory methods such as hand-dug pits, water and soil sampling, in situ measurements of soil moistures and near-surface soil temperatures, and surface surveys were augmented with new geophysical investigation methods, including electrical resistivity tomography, new multi-channel ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic survey, and vertical electrical sounding for investigating the structures of the active layer, permafrost, cryogenic phenomena and vegetative differentiations, distribution of ground water tables and soil moisture, migration of salts, the physical properties of permafrost in the vicinity of the permafrost table, and the thickness of permafrost.
Other developing permafrost projects: A survey of permafrost conditions on the Qinghai- Tibet Plateau was initiated by the Ministry of National Land and Resources and organized by CAS-CAREERI. This project aims to understand the status of permafrost and its changes during the past 50 years through field expeditions and investigations, geophysical explorations, data collection, and modelling/mapping using the latest technologies. The project would be led by L. Zhao at the Golmud Permafrost Station, CAS-CAREERI. M. Wei and Q. Wu at the SKLFSE obtained funding for projects on long-term monitoring and early warning system for developing hazards along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Highway. More than 100 cross-sectional profiles along the highway and railway were established to monitor permafrost-related problems or mitigative effects of engineering measures. A CAS project was awarded to SKLFSE for the feasibility study of the Qinghai-Tibet Expressway from Golmud to Lhasa. This project would provide technical support for route selection, mitigative measures for frost hazards and design, construction of highway foundations and environmental management. Chief scientists are M. Wei and Q. Wu. The Ministry of Science and Technology granted a National 973 Project for studying cryospheric changes in China to CAREERI. Permafrost and changes of cold regions environments, and their adaptation are major components of the project. The Chief Scientist is Academician D. Qin. An experiment on watershed hydrology in the Hei’he River in Gansu Province was funded by the CAS and NSF-China. It includes synchronized satellite, airborne and ground-based observations and modelling of almost all components of the watershed consisting of alpine glaciers and permafrost, subalpine mountains forests and meadows, and piedmont steppes, farmlands in the middle drainages, and downstram deserts and salty lakes. The lead scientist is X. Li, CAREERI. A permafrost research project is underway related to the construction of a railway for the transportation of coal from Tianjun to Muli and from Chaidar to Muli in permafrost regions on the southern slope of the Qilian Mountains (on the northern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau) by Y. Sheng and H. Jin, the lead scientists from SKLFSE. Of the total 150 km highways from Tianjun to Muli, 60 km have continuous permafrost and 30 km discontinuous permafrost. The Muli to Jiangcang section (about 40 km of ice-saturated permafrost in wetlands) is not yet connected with the highway system in Qinghai Province. Although the planned railway largely parallels the highway, it traverses more permafrost areas due the more strict constraints of route selection. Mean annual ground temperatures range from -1.0 to -0.5°C in discontinuous permafrost area and -1.5 to -1.0°C in continuous permafrost regions. The ground temperature in the Muli Basin is about -2.0°C. Permafrost foundation engineering research for the 440 kW power transmission line from Golmud to Lhasa is underway for construction in winter 2008, with J. Zhang from SKLFSE as lead scientist. The major permafrost research is on the tower foundations in thaw-sensitive and frost-susceptible permafrost areas. The Tibet Plateau Research Program (TiP) is funded by NSF-China and DFG, aiming at understanding land surface and interior processes and palaeoclimates and -environments, including periglacial and relict permafrost, degradation of permafrost and ecological and hydrological processes in cold regions. The lead TiP organizations on permafrost in China are CAREERI and the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.
Organizational change: The State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science was founded on the basis of the CAS Ice Cores and Cold Regions Environments. Its primary research foci are cryospheric science in China and in polar regions. Several stations for the study of cold regions hydrology and alpine permafrost in the upper Hei’he River, Gansu Province, were re-established on the basis of the research and monitoring in 1990s and for the need of watershed management research. A permafrost station in Muli, Qilian Mountains, was established for studying and monitoring changes of permafrost in wetlands and the environmental impacts associated with development of coal mines, which would be a major cold regions project during the next 25 years.
Meetings: The Sino-German Workshop on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau research was held in Kun’ming, China, April 27-30, exchanging the latest developments on plateau geosciences. The majority of reports were on palaeo-reconstruction, including changes and evolution of permafrost and periglacial processes. A Symposium on the Qinghai- Tibet Plateau and Bordering Regions was held October 20-23 in Lanzhou, China, for exchange of recent development on plateau research in China. Permafrost studies in northeastern China and in Qinghai-Tibet were presented. The CliC conference, with a focus of Asian countries, was held in Lanzhou immediately afterwards. Meetings on Strategic Positioning of CAREERI and SKLFSE were held in October. The foci were on strategic re-positioning of studies on permafrost engineering and cold regions environments, on organizing major domestic and international research projects on permafrost, and on re-organizing of research divisions in SKLFSE and CAREERI. It is concluded that permafrost changes and its environmental impacts in the sources of the Yellow River are very important, and will be strengthened within the next 5 to 10 years by organizing and conducting major research projects, and by establishing long-term monitoring stations using funding from NSF-China, CAS and CAREERI.