2009

PERMOS, the PERmafrost MOnitoring Switzerland, has been further consolidated: In addition to the coordination office, a scientific committee was constituted and met three times. Besides elaboration of data policy, defining governance structures and ensuring quality, it conducted the re-evaluation of the “B”-ranked sites in fall 2009. Standards for the two types of sites, “Thermal Sites” and “Dynamic / Kinematic Sites” are being implemented step by step. As one part of the process, a questionnaire was published on www.permos.ch to receive information from the larger public, when rock fall were observed. Existing rock fall inventories form the base and are complemented by feedback from the questionnaire. In June, the Annual PERMOS meeting was held in Neuchâtel and included an excursion to the Jura permafrost site Creux du Van.

At the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF (www.slf.ch), new practical guidelines for the construction of infrastructure in mountain permafrost were developed in collaboration with various partners; with a special emphasis on site selection and structure design with special technical solutions. The SLF permafrost monitoring network now includes new instrumented boreholes under recently built mountain infrastructure such as pylons, buildings and defense structures. Temperature trends from older boreholes located in complex mountain topography in the Swiss Alps are being analyzed using specially developed Generalized Linear Models. At sites where reference data are available, 3D-laserscanning techniques are being tested to monitor creep, subsidence and erosion rates in different types of mountain permafrost terrain. Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys continued to be made on the Gemsstock ridge (with the University of Bonn). ERT monitoring were carried out (with the University of Fribourg within PERMOS) to observe the rapidly thawing ground ice at the Flüela Pass site, where one of the first Swiss permafrost investigations was carried out in the 1970’s.

Carbon and water exchange at the water-atmosphere interface in Siberia

Research in the taiga and tundra ecosystems in eastern Siberia is performed in cooperative projects of the Institute for Biological Problems Cryolithozone (IBPC) of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk and the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam (Department of Hydrology and Geo-Environmental Sciences).

In a larch/birch forest near Yakutsk (Spasskaya Pad Field Station) and on a tundra site near Chokhurdakh in the Indigirka lowlands (Kytalyk reserve) flux measurements have been made with eddy correlation towers. The aim is to estimate the annual exchange rates and their interannual variability, and to determine the sensitivity to environmental factors of the fluxes.

The 2006-2009 campaigns have been funded by NWO (Dutch Organization of Scientific Research), VU and RFBR (Russian Foundation for Basic Research). Participating Dutch institutes are VU Amsterdam, Utrecht University (Paleoecology) and Wageningen University (Vegetation Ecology). This resulted in joint fieldwork at the tundra site in the summers of 2007-2009, including a methane flux measurement campaign on tundra and floodplain environments and thermokarst lakes, vegetation ecological experiments and sampling of lake bottom sediments for paleo-ecological research. Also a site was established for longer term monitoring of active layer thickness. In the summer of 2008, for the first time eddy covariance measurements using a cavity ringdown laser system were successfully set up and operated at the tundra site; its operation continued in the summer of 2009. Contact scientist: K. van Huissteden (ko.van.huissteden@falw.vu.nl).

A symposium to celebrate Professor Charles Harris’ career was held on 25th September at the UMR CNRS 6143 "M2C"/ University of Caen, in Caen, France. Details of this happy and successful event are given in Frozen Ground #33.

Work has continued in establishing a chronology for the relict periglacial landscape of East Anglia. Through their application of cutting-edge luminescence dating methods Stephen Hitchens and Mark Bateman (Sheffield) have been able to discern from single samples multiple activation ages of both stripes and periglacial polygons, indicating polycyclic development of these features during Marine Isotope Stages 4–2. Stephen’s untimely death in September is a great loss to the UK periglacial community and he will be sorely missed.

Glacier-permafrost interactions associated with a Pleistocene ice sheet overriding permafrost ~430,000 years ago in Norfolk, Eastern England, were studied by an interdisciplinary team led by R. Waller (University of Keele) and comprising C. Whiteman (University of Brighton), E. Phillips and J. Lee (British Geological Survey) and J. Murton (University of Sussex). The structural attributes of stratified sand intraclasts within silty and clayey tills constrain the thermal conditions of glaciotectonic deformation. Analogous deformation structures in metamorphic rocks and glacially deformed permafrost in Arctic Canada support the hypothesis that the Norfolk structures did not form in an unfrozen deforming bed, as long thought, but in warm and ductile permafrost.

The 2009 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union took place in San Francisco, California, December 14–18. Larry Hinzman, IARC Director and former U.S. Permafrost Association (USPA) board member, was invited to present the prestigious Nye Lecture on “Arctic Hydrology and the role of feedbacks in the climate system.” Approximately 200 talks and posters dealt with frozen ground, presented across virtually all AGU sections and focus groups. Presentations covered climate feedbacks and interactions, remote sensing and modeling techniques, geomorphology, environmental change, and many other topics. The USPA also held its annual meeting on 17 December during the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting. J. Rooney replaced Y. Shur as President. Coordinated by the new Permafrost Young Researchers Network (PYRN)-USPA liaison A. Liljedahl, the USPA established a USPA-PYRN Educational Fund to provide long-term support for early career permafrost researchers. The effort is managed by a PYRN-USPA committee who provide advice to the USPA Board of Directors. 2009 USPA-PYRN initiatives included five partial travel grants to the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, and a social networking and professional development event during AGU. Activities are announced through the website http://pyrn.ways.org.

The 2009 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers took place March 22–27 in Las Vegas. The AAG’s Cryosphere Specialty Group (CrSG) sponsored 14 sessions, including two sessions specifically on frozen ground, as well as sessions on cryospheric remote sensing, IPY, glaciers, water resources, and Arctic hydroclimatology. The annual CrSG awards were presented: H. J. Walker, Boyd Professor Emeritus at Louisiana State University, was recognized with the 2009 Francois Emile Matthews Award. The R. S. Tarr Illustrated Student Paper Award went to V. Chu of UCLA, for her presentation on “Rapid response of sediment plumes to Greenland ice-sheet surface melt.”