NERC Arctic Research Programme


Two permafrost projects funded by NERC’s Arctic Research Programme 2010–15 have carried out their first field season of data collection in NW Canada. CYCLOPS (Carbon Cycling Linkages of Permafrost Systems) researchers collected data on vegetation characteristics, soil properties, peat and carbon gases from sites near Whitehorse, Yukon. HYDRA (Permafrost catchments in transition: hydrological controls on carbon cycling and greenhouse gas budgets) researchers collected data on hydrology and permafrost conditions near Inuvik. Further information on both projects is available at:

Monitoring the thermal state of permafrost by automated time-lapse Capacitive Resistivity Imaging


Geophysical experiments on imaging of rock freezing and thawing continued at the University of Sussex Permafrost Laboratory. The experiments are due to finish in 2014, after multiple cycles of active-layer freezing and thawing above artificial permafrost. Further information is available at:

The Geological Society of London, Engineering Group Working Party on ‘Periglacial and Glacial Engineering Geology.’

This working party continued to prepare a book about the ground conditions associated with UK Quaternary periglacial and glacial environments and their materials, from an engineering geological viewpoint. The draft of the book is expected to be completed in 2014. Further information about periglacial ground models and engineering geology in the UK is available from Julian Murton.

Devensian periglacial record in the mid-lower Trent valley

Colin Baker has undertaken a review of the Devensian periglacial record in the mid-lower Trent valley, identifying evidence for past permafrost (ice-wedge pseudomorphs) and aeolian activity (coversand) of Devensian age. A late Younger Dryas age for coversand known as the Spalford Sand at Girton quarry, near Newark, is confirmed, consistent with the North Lincolnshire coversand chronology and correlating with the continental Younger Coversand II.  Figure 1 shows a section of this coversand sheet, here modified into a series of small transverse north-south ridges, implying reactivation by easterly palaeowinds in the Early Holocene resulting in repeated high-angle slipface bedding. While sandsheet geometry and AGCM modelling point to westerly provenance for main coversand placement in the Younger Dryas, the superficial dune structures at Girton indicate the later influence of strong reversed winter palaeowinds, probably driven by anticyclone circulation over the dwindling Scandinavian ice-sheet, during Early Holocene climatic anomalies. Further information is available in:
Baker, C.A., Bateman, M., Bateman, P. and Jones, H.  2013.  The aeolian sand record in the Trent valley.  Mercian Geologist, 18, 108-118.


Figure 1. Coversand of Younger Dryas age, Girton Quarry, near Newark.


Report prepared by Julian Murton (