2010

In the summer of 2010 the geologists from the Polish Geological Institute – National Research Institute made a very important and interesting discovery on permafrost: Boreholes drilled in the north-eastern part of Poland in the vicinity of Suwałki (sites borehole in Udyń and Szypliszki) near the Polish-Lithuanian border showed that at the depth of 356 metres there was a layer which temperature was only +0.07°C!

This was probably (until recently) permafrost which has survived since the Pleistocene. According to information given by Prof. Jerzy Nawrocki, the Director of Polish Geological Institute (PGI) and Prof. Jan Szewczyk who heads the research project the thickness of the layer was of several metres. This potentially recently thawed permafrost probably dates back to 13000 years BP. This discovery is of significant importance. This is the only place in Central Europe where such permafrost was found. The investigations are currently being carried out to understand more on the origin of the permafrost layer. This discovery was the subject of a press conference and information about it is published at the website of Polish Geological Institute: http://www.pgi.gov.pl/archiwum-aktualnosci-instytutu/2728

Research activities on Antarctic permafrost are framed within the projects Permantar and Permantar-2 (Permafrost and Climate Change in the Maritime Antarctic) coordinated by the University of Lisbon (CEG/IGOT-UL). The projects also count with the participation of the Centre of Geophysics of the University of Évora and Centre of Geophysics of the University of Lisbon, as well as with several foreign institutions: Bulgarian Antarctic Institute, Federal University of Viçosa (Brazil), University of Alcalá de Henares (Spain), University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA).  In 2010 Antarctic permafrost research took place in Deception and Livingston Islands (South Shetlands), with a focus on permafrost and active layer monitoring and modelling, snow cover monitoring and geomorphodynamics research.

Two new ESA category-1 projects based on SAR remote sensing are under way. Snowantar is a collaboration between CEG/IGOT-UL and the University of Alcalá (Spain), aiming at mapping snow cover dynamics as a major controlling factor on permafrost thermal regime. TidefInSAR is a collaboration between CEG/IGOT-UL and LATTEX aiming and DInSAR analysis of permafrost terrain deformation in the South Shetlands. More detailed information on these projects can be found at http://www.antecc.org.

The activities of the members of Romanian Permafrost and Periglacial Research Group in 2010 was carried out by an increasing number of experienced and younger scientists.

At the Department of Geography, West University of Timişoara, P. Urdea and his team (M. Ardelean, F. Ardelean, A. Onaca) are continuing frost heaving and depth of frost monitoring program in the Muntele Mic area, and have implemented a program using thermal photography and infrared cameras, magnetic susceptibility meter and thermal characteristic meter (conductivity, diffusivity) in the investigation of periglacial forms (earth hummocks, solifluctional forms). Our team and several undergraduate and graduate students undertook additional new data at several test sites -Valea Doamnei, Văiuga cirque, Paltina (Făgăraş Mountains), Bucura (Retezat Mountains, Detunata Goală (Apuseni Mts.) - by geophysical investigations (ERT, GPR), ground temperature sensors on rock glaciers, scree slopes and rock walls, solifluction lobes, small sorted nets. In addition, detailed 2D electrical resistivity tomography was used to detect subsurface frost structures of patterned ground in Căleanu Mountain (2190 m a.s.l; Ţarcu Mts.), or of morainic complex and fossil palsa in Soarbele Valley (Godeanu Mts.). Using GIS technology, a series of digital maps of various scales have been realized for the alpine area of the Transylvanian Alps by M. Törok-Oance and F. Ardelean (West University of Timişoara) oronatural environment of Yakutia (IMZ SB RAS).

In 2010 the scientific investigations on the spatial- temporal regularities of cryosphere, the heterogeneous reaction of cryosphere on the global and regional climate changes, the geoecology and the engineering-cryolithological peculiarities of the northern regions have been proceeded by Russian geocryologists.

The fundamental researches are kept on the following lines: “Natural and technogenic systems in Earth’s cryosphere and their interactions” (coordinator – Melnikov, V.P., the academician of RAS), “Permafrost of shelf and coastal zones” (includes the assessment of the geocryological history and contemporary cryolithozone’s state, the explorations of regularities of the dynamics and transformation of the frozen and cryotic rocks, the emanation of carbohydrates) (Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS).

The preparation of the new edition of the “Geocryological map” of the Russian territory is carried out (the corresponding problem is posed in the plan of subjects of Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS).
The “climate-permafrost-space-time” dependence during the last 20-100 years, the parameters of cyclicity of the changes of natural complexes under the technogenic impact are studied (Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS).
The investigations of the coastal-shelf permafrost in Russian Arctic are held on using the seismic hydro-technique and hydro-technologies. The GIS of Russian Arctic regions including shelf are worked out (Erath Cryosphere Institute SB RAS).

In 2010, studies of cryosphere have been were carried out by Spaniard research groups in Polar Regions of the Arctic and Antarctic and the high mountain of Andes and Africa. Also they has worked on Martian permafrost and the Iberian Peninsula (Pyrenees, Cantabrian Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Central System) where the studies have focused mainly on mountain permafrost degradation, periglacial process and their spatial distribution, and nival processes and landforms. The different working Groups collaborate with several International groups of USA, UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Argentine, Perú, Brazil, Mexico, France and Switzerland. The Spanish researches have consolidated the activity after IPY, with the continuity of groups and researches supported by National founds. During the last IPA Regional Conference (IIIEUCOP) held in Longyearbyen (Svalbard) six Spanish researchers representing to six research group participate in the meeting. It is a little but active community and we celebrate each two years a 2-3days meeting, joint to the Portuguese association. The meeting of 2011 (III IPA-Iberian Meeting) will take place in Galicia, 21-24 june, organized by Marcos Valcárcel (University of Santiago de Compostela). In 2010 two publications related to periglacial subjects has been edited in Spanish language. A monographic number of the review Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica (Geographical Research Papers) (36-1 and 2, 2010) edited by J.M. García-Ruiz and J. Arnáez on snow at the Iberian mountains, avalanches, hydrological and geomorphological issues, (http://www.unirioja.es/servicios/sp/ej/cig/cig.shtml) with papers in English and Spanish. The monographic edited by J.J. Blanco, M.A. de Pablo and M. Ramos, Ambientes periglaciares, permafrost y variabilidad climática (Periglacial environments, permafrost and climatic variability), published by the University Press of the University of Alcalá de Henares, include the contributions made by Iberian IPA community to the II IPA-Iberian meeting.

Carbon and exchange from permafrost soils and ecosystems 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) and Wageningen University (Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology).
In a larch/birch forest near Yakutsk (Spasskaya Pad Field Station) and on a tundra site near Chokhurdakh in the Indigirka lowlands (Kytalyk reserve) CO2 and CH4 flux measurements have been made with eddy correlation towers since respectively 2000 and 2003. The aim is to estimate the annual exchange rates and their interannual variability, and to determine the sensitivity to environmental factors and permafrost degradation. Currently, four publications resulting from this research are under review.
Finance for continuation of the research work at Chokurdagh until 2013 has been secured with new research grants from NWO (Dutch Organization of Scientific Research) and Darwin Center. This wil focus specifically on the effects of permafrost degradation on the carbon balance, effects of hydrological changes and vegetation-permafrost interactions. Research cooperation has been established with Japanese (Hokkaido University, Dr Iwahana) and German (AWI, Wetterich) research groups.
In november 2010, Wageningen University, IBPC, VU successfully organized the 5th International Workshop on' C/H2O/Energy balance and climate over boreal and arctic regions with special emphasis on eastern Eurasia', with contributions from Russia, Japan, Europe and USA.

Periglacial and Glacial Engineering Geology Working Party

Following on from the success of the Tropical Residual Soils and the Hot Deserts Working Parties, the Engineering Group of the Geological Society of London is proposing to form a new Working Party on 'Periglacial and Glacial Engineering Geology' (working title).  The aim of the Working Party is to produce a report that will act as an essential reference handbook for professionals working in relict periglacial and glacial ground conditions, as well as a valuable textbook for students and others.

A Steering Group has recently been established to draft the Terms of Reference for the proposed Working Party; develop the publication contents and structure; identify key authors and contributors; and develop the publication budget and programme.  The Steering Group comprises John Charman (Chair), Chris Martin (Secretary), Dave Giles, Julian Murton, Kevin Privett and Mike Winter. The Steering Group aims to complete these activities and report back at the Engineering Group Forum on 'Quaternary Engineering Geology;' to be held at the premises of the Royal Geographical Society on 23rd November 2011.

Please contact Chris Martin (chris.martin@arup.com) if you would like to find out more or contribute to the Working Party.

Experiments on consolidation and comminution of sand during freeze-thaw cycles were carried out in a collaborative project between Imperial College London and the University of Sussex. The experiments were undertaken by Vincent Blanchet as part of his MSc thesis in Soil Mechanics, supervised by Dr Catherine O’Sullivan and Dr Clark Fenton (Imperial) in collaboration with Julian Murton (Sussex). Oedometers installed in the Sussex Permafrost Laboratory measured sand consolidation, while sand grains subjected to repeated freeze-thaw cycles in climate cabinets where monitored in terms of surface microstructures.

Julian Murton (j.b.murton@sussex.ac.uk)

The 2010 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Uniontook place in San Francisco, California, December 13–17. Approximately 235 talks and posters dealt with frozen ground, presented across many AGU sections and focus groups. Presentations covered geochemical, geophysical, and geomorphic aspects of permafrost, remote sensing and modeling techniques, permafrost’s relationship to the ecohydrology of Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems, climate feedbacks and interactions, environmental change, and many other topics.

The USPA Annual Meeting was also held on 15 December during the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting. Torre Jorgenson succeeded Jim Rooney as President. Margaret Cysewski was appointed as the new USPA-PYRN liaison, a position formerly held by Anna Liljedahl who was elected USPA secretary. Oliver Frauenfeld took over as president-elect, and Michael Lilly re-joined the Board of Directors as an at-large member.

The 2010 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers took place April 14–18 in Washington, D.C. The AAG’s Cryosphere Specialty Group (CrSG) sponsored and co-sponsored 11 sessions. These included a session specifically on frozen ground and periglacial environments, as well as sessions on glaciers and changing environments, interactions between the cryosphere and atmospheric circulation, and hydroclimatology. The annual CrSG awards were presented and former USPA board member and president Ken Hinkel was recognized with the 2010 Francois Emile Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. The R. S. Tarr Illustrated Student Paper Award went to Ms. Rachel Bernstein with her poster “Southern Ocean Sea Ice Volume Transport using NIC Chart-Derived Thickness Distributions.”