In 2008, the investigations of Russian geocryologists were carried out on a wide variety of topics, and focused on the analysis of the spatial-temporal characteristics of the cryosphere, its reaction to the global and regional climate change and to human-induced impacts.

Russian organizations implemented the monitoring of the thermal state of the permafrost and geotechnical monitoring of frozen ground. As a result, several procedures and regulations related to permafrost engineering in industrial projects for insurance purposes were implemented.

It was established that since the second half of the 1990s, mean annual permafrost temperatures have stabilized (and in places decreased), in spite of climate warming and an increase of permafrost temperatures in the 1970-1980s. At the same time, a deepening of the active layer up to depths of 5-9 m was recorded in forest tundra. At this location, however, recent observations have not unambiguously confirmed the tendency towards permafrost degradation although evident signs of frost processes and permafrost table fluctuations are observed (Earth Cryosphere Institute, SB RAS).

Monitoring of the dynamics of the shores of the Kara Sea continued under extreme climate change conditions. Expeditions on the shores of the Yenisei Bay and the Baidoratskaya Bay of the Kara Sea provided the first data on the temperature and permafrost dynamics of contemporary accumulative formations. Unique cryogenic formations were studied in new exposures of coastal outcrops of the Kara Sea during their intensive retreat in 2008. As a result, a thoroughly revised conception of the region’s cryogenesis was established (Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS, Lomonosov Moscow State University, All-Russian Research Institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the World Ocean).

For the first time, the respective role of cryogenic processes (thermoabrasion, thermodenudation, thermokarst, solifl uction, thermosuff osion, as well as lateral, bottom and regressive thermoerosion) in the erosion of the coast has been quantitatively substantiated (Melnikov Permafrost Institute, SB RAS).

The Institute “Fundamentproekt”, together with the Stockholm University conducted geocryological research in the northern alpine part of Sweden, including the field geocryology and soil-botanical mapping, drilling, temperature investigations, thus providing a unique insight into Swedish permafrost.

In 2008, a map of the assessment of the permafrostecological hazard sensitivity for the oil-and-gas field territories of the Nadym-Purovskoye interfluve (Lomonosov Moscow State University), a 1:1,000,000 hydrogeological map of Central Yakutia, and a 1:500,000 scale map of distribution of rock glaciers of the Djangarskii Alatoo (Melnikov Permafrost Institute) were produced. A suite of 1:200,000 maps (of geomorphological structure, of engineering-geological Sakhalin- Khabarovsk-Vladivostok pipeline route was also prepared (Geological Research Institute for Construction).

The Institute of Geoecology, RAS (IGE) carried out research integrating probabilistic and deterministic approaches for long-term geocryological forecast. The influence of the heterogeneity of snow cover on the thermal state of permafrost was highlighted.

Calculations of the geothermal heat flow in the discontinuous and continuous permafrost zones of the Vilyui syncline of the Siberian platform were conducted. Using these calculations, the fluctuations of the phase boundary (decrease of the permafrost thickness) were estimated and a database on heat flow was created (Melnikov Permafrost Institute, Institute of Oil-and-Gas Geology and Geophysics, SB RAS).

The regional structure of the altitudinal zonation in the mountains of the Djangarskii Alatoo was studied by the Kazakhstan Alpine Geocryological Laboratory and the Melnikov Permafrost Institute, SB RAS. Permafrost is thought to underlain as much as 54, 000 km2 in the area, and the volume of ground ice is estimated as 21.5 km3.

New data on degradation (dispersion, amorphization) of clay minerals during the process of cryolithogenesis was obtained by the Chair, Cryolithology and Glaciology, Department of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University.

An experimental set-up was tested and experiments on studying the peculiarities of ice motion inside the cavity of porous ceramics under the infl uence of temperature and pressure gradients of liquid were performed (Earth Cryosphere Institute, SB RAS). The effect of self-preservation of gas hydrate was studied in detail both experimentally and theoretically. The process preserves relic gas hydrates in the permafrost at the depth of 150-200m which is typically beyond the zone of its normal thermodynamical stability (Earth Cryosphere Institute, SB RAS). The mechanisms of ice accumulation and its role in the formation on the structure and the composition of cryogenic formations were examined experimentally at the Earth Cryosphere Institute, SB RAS.

The possibilties of CO2 burial in gaseous or liquid state in the West Siberian cryolithozone was analyzed at the Institute of Oil-and-Gas Geology and Geophysics, SB RAS. Subpermafrost reservoirs were found to be of interest especially in continuous permafrost regions (north of 65-66°N).

In all seas of the Arctic region, except for the Chuckchi Sea, it was found that the occurrence of relic gas hydrate accumulation, confined to shelf permafrost, is possible (Scientifi c Research Institute of Natural Gas and Gas Technologies).

Young Researchers: In the framework of the International Youth Scientific Forum, 32 students and post-graduates participated in activities devoted to the 100th anniversary of Academician P.I. Melnikov and organized by the Melnikov Permafrost Institute SB RAS (Yakutsk), the Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS (Tyumen), and the Institute of Geoecology RAS (Moscow). Included were observations of permafrost temperatures at 10 sites at the Mountain North-Baikal Permafrost steady-state-station (Chara).

In July, research on cryogenic processes of ground ice in outcrops of the deposits of the 50-meter terrace of the Aldan river (Mamontova Mountain) were completed, including sampling for biochemical and microbiological analyses with the assistance of students and post-graduates of the Tyumen institute of Cryogenic resources, Tyumen Scientifi c Center SB RAS, Tyumen State Oil-and-Gas University, University of Hokkaido (Japan), Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine SB RAS (Novosibirsk), Institute of Applied Ecology of North (Yakutsk), Moscow and Yakutsk State University.

In August, a field excursion took place along the Yakutsk- Skovorodino-Chara route with the objective to revisit sites where local (Central Yakutia and Skovorodinskaya experimentalpermafrost station) and regional (Lena-Aldan Plateaux, Southern Yakutia, Udokan and Kalar Mountain Ridges) geocryological research was performed during the twentieth century. Students and research assistants of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute SB RAS (Yakutsk), the Institute of Geoecology (Moscow), the Institute of Cryogenic Resources (Tyumen), the Yakutsk State University, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Tyumen State Oil-and-Gas University, and a French university took part in the trip.

The most outstanding publications of 2008 are:

  • Fundamentals of Geocryology. Part 6. Geocryological prediction and ecological problems in cryolithozone./edited by Ershov E.D., MSU Publishing House, 2008, 768p.
  • Roman L.T., Tsernant A.A., Poleshchuck V.L., Tseeva A.N., Levanov N.I. Construction on filled-up ground in cryolithozone. Edited by Roman L.T., Tsernant A.A., Economy, Construction, Transport Publishing House. 2008, 323 p.
  • Parmusin S.Yu. Effective nature management in cryolithozone. MSU Publishing House, 2008, 172 p.
  • Pavlov A.V. Monitoring of cryolithozone. Novosibirsk: Nauka Publishing House, 2008.
  • Shpolyanskaya N.A. Global climate change and evolution of cryolithozone. Tutorial. MSU Publishing House, 2008, 130 p.

The following conferences were convened: International Conference: Cryogenic resources of Polar and Alpine regions. State and outlook of engineering geocryology, April 21-24, Tyumen. Scientifi c-and-Practical Conference: Hydrogeology, engineering geology, geocryology and geoecology of Transbaikalia and contiguous territories, September 24-27, 2008. Chita. Northern Social and Environmental Congress: International Polar Year in Russia, Arctic Science Summit Week, March 26- April 2, 2008, Syktyvkar, Russia International Conference: Russian contribution to the International Polar Year, September 2-7, 2008, Sochi, Russia

Dmitriy Drozdov (