1998 IPA Country Report

Table of Contents

Argentina (and South American Partners)
The Netherlands
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States of America
South Africa

Argentina (and South American Partners)

The activities of 1997 concluded in December with two important events. The first was the donation of Arturo Corte’s library to the Argentine Institute for Snow, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA), which is part of the Geocryology Unit of Mendoza, a regional research center of CONICET. The Library of Ice and Snow, with over 10,000 items on mainly present-day and Pleistocene periglacial processes, is of great importance in South America.
The second event was completion of the book: IANIGLA: 25 Years of Basic and Applied Research on Environmental Sciences, edited by D. Trombotto and R. Villalba and dedicated to Arturo Corte, as the pioneer of environmental studies in Argentina and South America, who recently retired. The book consists of 45 bilingual (Spanish and English) scientific publications, seven of which are dedicated to geocryology and several others of which indirectly concern this field. Publication is awaiting financial arrangements.

The Geocryology Unit of Mendoza submitted a proposal to CONICET to perform tasks of climatic and cryogenic research on the permafrost conditions of the Morenas Coloradas rock glacier. Researchers of various institutions participate in this project: Trombotto from IANIGLA, Ahumada from the University of Tucumn, and Aristarain from the Argentine Antarctic Institute–Legan.
Once again a reunion will be held of the Argentine Group of Geomorphologists together with CONICET and the Argentine Agency of Scientific Promotion. Simultaneously the Argentine Permafrost Association is planning to meet. On this occasion a visit to the periglacial morphology of the Volcano Maipo and Laguna del Diamante region will be proposed.
This year Lucìa Arena, Ice Physicist from the University of Curdoba, is doing research as a guest at the Regional Research Center of Mendoza (CRICYT). Her knowledge of and experience with experimental ice growth and its application to atmospheric, cryogenic and paleoclimatic studies are being utilized. Arena is studying the sequences of ice cores extracted from the Antarctic and may give an introductory course on ice physics in Mendoza. In addition, the Geocryology Unit of Mendoza will receive a delegation of students from the University of Bamberg (Germany) in October. They will visit IANIGLA and the Andean Cordillera. Two students from the University of Bonn who are particularly interested in geocryology will stay at IANIGLA.
The PROGEBA (a research program of Bariloche) is participating as an active member of the paleoclimatic community by developing and collaborating in projects focusing on the landscape and biotic transformation as a response to climatic change. Through the recovery of continuous sequences of sediments from deep lakes, high resolution records including geochemical, paleomagnetic and micro-fossil data are being obtained. The recovered information will be entered into data banks for the understanding and prediction of global climatic trends.
In recent work at the University of Essen (Germany), G. Schellmann has found and registered a new till east of Condor Cliff (approximately 50°11′S, 70°51′W) in South Patagonia, which so far has been considered the limit of the extra-Andean glaciations in the valley of the Santa Cruz river. This confirms the previously assumed age of 2.7–3.5 million years, as suggested by Mercer. This important contribution also quotes an ESR dating of a level of marine shells in Puerto San Julin of 100–120 thousand years, below ice-wedge casts that represent the Pleniglacial (Finiglacial). These pseudomorphs display characteristics very similar to those found by Trombotto at 46°S, and confirm the cryostratigraphical position suggested for the latest generation of ice-wedge casts in South Patagonia.

Dario Trombotto (aristar@cpsarg.com)


Major Canadian activities over the past year centered on the Seventh International Conference on Permafrost through the national, program, field trip and local organizing committees. As indicated in the minutes of the Council meetings, the Canadian Organizing Committee’s final report on the Conference addresses the organization of future Conferences. At the opening ceremonies, Jean-Serge Vincent (Director, Terrain Sciences Division, Geological Survey of Canada) summarized the importance of permafrost research to Canada as well as permafrost regions of the world. Five immediate and essential research thrusts were addressed.

First, there is an urgent need to systematically acquire more baseline data on the precise distribution, thickness, ground ice content, ground thermal regime and engineering properties, and behavior of permafrost in many areas, particularly those where economic development is either ongoing or anticipated. For example, in Canada, outside of a few restricted areas, relatively little is known about permafrost in surficial deposits or in the bedrock of extensive areas of the Canadian Shield. Roads to the Arctic coast, port facilities, mines, and larger communities are being planned but baseline data are largely lacking.
Second, environmental concerns in northern Canada are increasing, particularly with regards to contaminant move-ment or containment in frozen ground. As regards oil and gas, the disposal of waste drilling fluids in below-ground sumps has been a concern for over two decades in Arctic Canada. Now, as other forms of mining activities increase in both North America and Siberia, these problems become increasingly complex. For example, the knowledge of permafrost aquifers is limited, yet it is essential if the tailings from new mines are to be handled efficiently and safely. Finally, the clean-up and control of various wastes that have been left in northern Canada over the past 50 years, following industrial, military or other activities, can only be effective if there is a sound science base.
A third research area involves acquiring better information on permafrost-related hazards as they affect northern communities and infrastructures of all types. Slope stability, thaw settlement and frost heave are fundamental areas. Likewise, there are special issues such as, for example, coastal erosion of permafrost shorelines. At Tuktoyaktuk, in the Pleistocene Mackenzie Delta region of Canada, the coast is receding in places at rates of more than 10 m/year. There is a need to thoroughly understand permafrost-related geomorphic processes and mechanisms. Also, there is a need to understand how the various geotechnical and environmental conditions control these mechanisms, and how surficial geology, vegetation, climate and permafrost interact.
A fourth research need involves the development and testing of new or modified geophysical techniques. These are needed to accurately and inexpensively delineate massive ice bodies and high ice contents in frozen sediments. In this way one may hope to minimize potential terrain disturbance or infrastructure damage in permafrost regions.
The fifth research need deals with the issue of providing a sound and realistic understanding of the impact of climate change on permafrost to both the physical environment and to engineering structures. Monitoring and modeling capabilities must be developed that can determine the signal of change in the cryosphere, evaluate impact scenarios, and formulate adaptation measures. The high latitudes of both North America and Eurasia will be especially affected. For example, in Canada, current predictions indicate a substantial warming in the Mackenzie River basin. It is thought that an average 2°C warming in summer temperatures will result in the progressive degradation of permafrost, and eventually lead to its virtual elimination over large areas. Over time, this will have a substantial impact upon communities, infrastructures, transportation corridors, and the environment in general. Associated with the issue of climate change is the acquisition of information on the distribution of widespread and abundant, but poorly known, gas hydrates in permafrost, and the various conditions that control their occurrence. The release into the atmosphere of large quantities of this greenhouse gas, that are presently trapped in permafrost, will significantly add to the global warming problem on the larger scale.


Based on presentation by Jean-Serge Vincent


During the past five years, significant progress has been  achieved on the following programs:

  • Research on dynamic changes of the cryosphere in China
  • Geocryological and engineering problems along Highway 214, Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP)
  • Studies on the interaction among permafrost, vegetation and the atmosphere on the QTP
  • Monitoring active layer processes on the QTP -Engineering geology on the trans-water project from
    the Yangtze River to the Yellow River: A western alternative
  • Pre-studies on geocryological engineering for construction of the Qinghai–Tibet Railway, from Golmud to Lhasa
  • Pre-studies of gas hydrates on the QTP

Important geocryological problems in China include:

  • Thermal stability of permafrost and the impacts of climatic change
  • Environmental engineering in the cold regions of China -Water resources at high altitudes and their roles in the formation and stability of water resources in western China

Recent major breakthroughs include:

  • Evidence of permafrost degradation in the eastern QTP
  • Establishment of a cryosphere database in the eastern QTP
  • Application of fracture mechanics in frozen soils
  • Construction of tunnels in alpine permafrost regions

Two important meetings were held:

  • The Chinese National Workshop on The Cryosphere and Global Change, 5–7 May 1995, at the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, Chinese Academy of Sciences 
  • The Fifth Chinese Conference on Glaciology and Geocryology, 18–22 August 1996, at Lanzhou University

Some recent major publications are:

  • Abstracts and Proceedings of the Chinese National Workshop on the Cryosphere and Global Change Cryosphere, first issue in 1995, second and third issues in 1996 and 1997
  • Proceedings of the Fifth Chinese Conference on Glaciology and Geocryology, two volumes
  • Assessment of Climate Change Impact on Snow Cover, Glaciers and Permafrost in China
  • Seasonally Freezing Halic Soils and Their Improvement: Utilization in the Hexi Corridor, Gansu, China
  • Permafrost Distribution Map of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • Mechanism of Frost Heave and Moisture Potential in Frozen Soils
  • Strength and Creep of Frozen Soil
  • Frozen Ground in China (in press)
  • Fracture Mechanics of Frozen Soils (in press)
  • Mechanism of Frost Heave and Moisture Potential in Frozen Soils (in English, in press)

Recent doctoral dissertations include:

  • Li Shuxun: Heat–Moisture Transfer in Frozen Soils
  • Chen Ruijie: Moisture Migration in Frozen Soils
  • Zhao Xiufeng: Frost Weathering of Rocks on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau
  • Mi Haizhen: Temperature Field of Frozen Wall Rocks in the Dabanshan Tunnel, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • Sheng Yu: Experimental Study of the Creep of Frozen Soils Under Changing Temperatures
  • Wang Guoshang: Environmental Engineering Problems in Permafrost Sections Along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway
  • Jin Huijun: Exchange of CH4, CO2 and N2 between Cold Wetlands and the Atmosphere on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau
  • Li Xin: The Cryosphere Information System in China and its Applications
  • Li Dongqing: Predictions of Permafrost Degradation and Engineering Problems Along National Highway 214

Jin Huijun (hjjin@ns.lzb.ac.cn)


Funding for the interdisciplinary research project The Arctic Landscape: Interactions and Feedbacks Among Physical, Geographical and Biological Processes has been extended by the Danish Science Research Councils, and the project is continuing through 1999.
A snow fence manipulation experiment run by Bjarne Holm Jacobsen, Bo Elberling and Hanne H. Christiansen started this summer in High Arctic northeast Greenland at Zackenberg. This experiment will study the interaction between physical and chemical properties, particularly the carbon cycle, in the active layer when the snow cover is prolonged.

This is done to study the effect of changes in the amount and distribution of snow over the landscape, to simulate the effect of former and future climatic changes.
Until now the combined use of recurrent CALM (Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring) measurements during summer, contemporary registration of the extent of the snow cover in the CALM grids, and meteorological data from the GeoBasis monitoring program of ZERO (Zackenberg Ecological Research Operation) has allowed an estimation of the effects of increased winter wind speeds on the summer snow cover extension.
The long-term ecosystem monitoring programs of ZERO in northeast Greenland are being continued by the Danish Polar Center in cooperation with the Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute in Denmark, and the Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen. Morten Rasch is the scientific leader of ZERO.
During the last three years research has been carried out on glacial and periglacial phenomena and collection of mountain climate data in the Faeroe Islands (62°N, 7°W) in the North Atlantic Ocean. These islands are close to the present-day southern limit for the Arctic zone. The present potential lower limit for discontinuous permafrost (–2°C) is 250–450 m above the highest mountain summits (880 m a.s.l.). This investigation was carried out by Ole Humlum and Hanne H. Christiansen, and was funded by the Danish Natural Science Research Council.
On Disko Island Ole Humlum is conducting a project on rock glacier temperature and dynamics, funded by the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland.
Bo Elberling is continuing his research project on chemical processes and transport mechanisms in the active layer of mining waste deposits in Arctic Canada (Nanisivik Mine) funded by the Environmental Department, Ministry of Environment and Energy (Denmark).

Hanne H. Christiansen (hhc@geogr.ku.dk)


The Adhering National Body of Finland comprises 11 Finnish scientific societies. It has had three meetings at which the participants have discussed national research activities and meetings as well as international congresses and symposia in the field of interest—frost, permafrost and other phenomena of cold climates. The work has been most interesting because the members represent different fields of science and technology. The Adhering Body began preparations for a Scandinavian workshop in Finnish Lapland entitled Changes in the Permafrost and Periglacial Environment: Scientific and Technical Approach. The tentative dates of the workshop are 20–24 August 1999. The organizing group has met twice. The Chairman of the Adhering National Body is Matti Seppälä of Helsinki University and the Secretary is Martti Eerola of the Finnish National Road Administration.

Peter Kuhry, Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi, reports that INTAS has funded the project Permafrost in the Usa Basin, Russia: Distribution, Characterization, Dynamics and Effects on Infrastructure. Participating institutions and responsible scientists are: Peter Kuhry (project coordinator); Louwrens Hacquebord, Arctic Centre, Groningen, The Netherlands; Galena Mazhitova, Institute of Biology, Komi Science Centre, Syktyvkar, Russia; Naum Oberman, stockcompany Polaruralgeologia, Vorkuta, Russia; and Vladimir Romanovsky, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA. This INTASRFBR project will result in the creation of a GIS of permafrost conditions in the Usa Basin (East-European Russian Arctic) based largely on data from long-term monitoring of permafrost conditions and characteristics. The GIS will characterize the current condition of permafrost in an area which represents the tundra–taiga ecotone. Mathematical modeling of permafrost dynamics will be employed to forecast permafrost degradation, and potential impacts of permafrost degradation will be analyzed.

Matti Seppälä (matti.seppala@helsinki.fi) Martti Eerola (martti.eerola@tieh.fi) Peter Kuhry (pkuhry@levi.urova.fi)


C. Feis and Ch. Le Coeur continued their studies in Ireland and the Hebrides on the dynamics of slopes in a periglacial climate. A map of the distribution of periglacial features in France has been compiled by S. Courbouleix of BRGM (Orléans). In parallel, he has undertaken a study on the origin of pits and lakes in Sologne as possible thermokarst lakes or palsas. B. Van Vliet Lanoe (University of Lille) studied the evolution of thufurs in Iceland. Research was conducted on thaw–freeze cycles by B. Etlicher (St. Etienne) from granitic weathering products involving fine materials.

G. Rovera is studying the withdrawal of slopes in the Pre-Alps (France). In 1997, field research was carried out on the Lena River to study the fluvial thermal erosion process. It was investigated by E. Gautier (CNRS, Meudon) and F. Costard (CNRS, Orsay) in cooperation with the Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Fluvial Processes at Moscow State University. A laboratory simulation of the gelifluction process was undertaken cooperatively by Cardiff University and the Centre de Géomorphologie, Caen.
This geomorphological work is represented by the Association Française du Périglaciaire, Ch. Le Coeur, President. Modeling of the permafrost thickness in France during the last glaciation was undertaken by BRGM, ANDRA,
CNRS, LCPC. A research program was carried out by A.M. Cames-Pintaux of the Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussés on the validity of numerical modeling from field measurements in Manitonuk. This research program is in cooperation with M. Allard of Centre d’Étude Nordique (Québec). A new project was initiated by J. Aguirre-Puente and F. Costard at the Centre de Géomorphologie, Caen. They are investigating the role of thermal erosion in Central Siberia (Yakutia) as well as on the planet Mars. The project is funded by the Programme National de Planétologie from the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers. This program includes the elaboration of an ablation model and some laboratory simulations of fluvial thermal erosion in a cold chamber. The investigators are now working in the Planetary Geology Group of Orsay University.
This modeling work is represented by the Association Française du Pergélisol, J. Aguirre-Puente, President.
In memory of André Cailleux (1907–1986) a conference organized by F. Costard and J.C. Ozouf was held 16 and 17 January 1997 in Paris in association with the Société Géologique de France and the Groupe Français de Géomorphologie. A total of 28 papers were presented as well as posters on the works of A. Cailleux. The conference theme was periglacial processes and landforms, sedimentology and comparative planetology. Participants from Canada, Spain, Belgium, Iran, and France attended the conference.
A conference organized by J. Aguirre-Puente on Permafrost and Actions of Natural or Artificial Cooling is being convened by CNRS and the International Institute of Refrigeration on 21–23 October 1998 at Orsay University. Forty-four oral presentations will cover thermomechanical mechanisms, periglacial processes, and planetology.

François Costard (fcostard@geol.u-psud.fr) Jean-Pierre Lautridou (lautrid@geos.unicaen.fr)


An extensive report on German activities has appeared in Frozen Ground No. 21, so only a short summary and new directions are highlighted here. Permafrost research in the terrestrial Arctic is mainly done at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam and in cooperation with several German and international university institutes. The main study areas are southeast Taimyr Peninsula (1994–97), Lena Delta (Laptev Sea project, 1998–2000), Central Yakutia (1997–98), Spitzbergen (Ny Ålesund, 1997–99) and East Greenland (Zackenberg, 1998–2000). Field work in the Laptev Sea project started in July 1998 with 15 German and 15 Russian scientists. In addition, the extent and characteristics of subsea permafrost in the Laptev Sea are being investigated by BGR Hannover and AWI Bremerhaven. Papers and post-ers with results of recent studies in Arctic permafrost were presented at the Yellowknife Conference.

Mountain permafrost research in the framework of the EU-PACE project is done in the Mattertal, Swiss Alps, by the University of Giessen (L. King, T. Herz, M. Schlerf, E. Schmitt) and in the Zugspitze area, German Alps, by D. Barsch/M. Gude (Heidelberg/Jena). An 80-m-deep drill hole is planned in the Mattertal early in 1999. Details of the PACE project are available on the PACE Web site. Additional studies of mountain permafrost are done mainly by individuals at a number of other German universities (Munich, Regensburg, Göttingen, Trier). Papers and posters on mountain permafrost in the Swiss Alps were presented in Yellowknife. The data of the 30-year-long survey of the Macun rock glacier (Swiss Alps) by D. Barsch/W. Zick was contributed to the CAPS CD.

Lorenz King (lorenz.king@geo.uni-giessen.de)


In the last week of June 1998, two PACE boreholes were drilled and equipped with thermistor chains in Stelvio Park in the Italian Alps. The first reached 103 m depth in limestone bedrock. The second, drilled in an active rock glacier, reached the underlying bedrock at about 50 m depth.
An inventory of rock glaciers in the Italian Alps was completed in 1997. A report was given by M. Guglielmin at the Yellowknife Conference.

Research on permafrost at Terra Nova Bay, Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica, continued as part of the National Research Project on Antarctica. It includes geomorphological surveying and mapping of periglacial features on ice-free lands, geoelectrical soundings, trenching and borehole drilling, ground-ice analysis, thermistor measurement, and a continuous record of ground temperatures in the active layer and the upper part of the permafrost.
Permafrost investigations are being carried out around the Italian Research Station at Ny Ålesund as part of the Italian CNR (National Research Council) Arctic Project. The program, which will interact with both the PRNA and PACE projects, includes: geomorphological, permafrost, and vegetation mapping; geoelectrical soundings; and BTS survey and borehole drilling to monitor the thermal gradient of the permafrost (active layer and top of permafrost). A second field program of 20 days was undertaken in mid-July 1998.
The results of the workshop on Mountain Permafrost Monitoring and Mapping held in Bormio, Italy, on 27 August 1997 are nearing publication.

Francesco Dramis (dramis@uniroma3.it)


In April 1998, the Mountain Permafrost Research Group (Chair, N. Matsuoka) was founded within the Japanese Geographical Union. This research group aims at encouraging permafrost studies in the Japanese high mountains where permafrost has been reported only on two volcanoes, Fuji and Daisetsu. However, permafrost is expected to be found on other, non-volcanic mountains, e.g. the Japanese Alps. Programs include mapping of past and present permafrost, monitoring of ground temperature and slope processes, and geophysical soundings.

Since 1994, a geomorphological group (N. Matsuoka, K. Hirakawa, T. Watanabe and others) has conducted field studies in the Engadin area, Switzerland, in cooperation with W. Haeberli, F. Keller and A. Kääb. The purpose is to understand the combination of active layer and permafrost processes on mountain slopes. Research topics also include rock glacier metamorphosis due to permafrost thawing and lithology in rock glacier morphology. Both are essential for understanding rock glaciers in Japanese mountains. Studies on rock glaciers and other permafrost-related landforms also continue in the Himalayas (T. Watanabe and S. Iwata) and Antarctica (T. Sone and H. Miura).
To better understand the energy and water cycle in permafrost areas, the international project GAME–Siberia is underway, mainly with Japanese, Russian and American scientists. Two observation stations are located in the Lena River basin at Spasskaya Pad near Yakutsk (taiga lowlands) and at Tiksi (tundra). A site for mountainous taiga will be established this year in Tynda at the southern boundary of the Lena River basin. A 32-m meteorological tower equipped with various kinds of sensors, including sonic anemometers, provides many kinds of hydrometeorological elements above and within the taiga forest canopy and soil.
The hydrological characteristics of a small tundra watershed in the vicinity of Tiksi are under study. An Automatic Climate Observation System (ACOS) with a 10-m mast was installed for meteorological observations that primarily focus on energy and water fluxes above the surface of the tundra. A CALM grid was also established at this site by Larry Hinzman in 1997.
During 1998, the GAME project is undertaking an Intensive Observation Period (IOP), and many GAME–Siberia researchers from Japan and Russia are visiting the Spasskaya Pad and Tiksi stations. It is expected that data will become available worldwide for researchers via the Internet after quality control of the raw data is accomplished. Some in situ data recorded at the Russian hydrometeorological network are being archived by GAME–Siberia; it is hoped that those data sets will become available in the future.
An emerging international research project in a discontinuous permafrost region is the Yukon Water and Energy Budget Experiment (YuWEX). Intensive field research is being conducted in the Caribou–Poker Creeks Research Watershed, about 50 km north of Fairbanks, Alaska, and on the Yukon River near Stevens Village and Pilot Station. This research is sponsored by the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center. The lead investigators include Nobuyoshi Ishikawa from the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, and Atsushi Sato from the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention in Shinjo. The U.S. collaborator is Larry Hinzman from the Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
In October 1997 the Frontier Research System for Global Change (FRSGC) was established with its head office in Tokyo. It consists of three research institutes, the Institute for Global Change Research (IGCR: Tokyo and Tsukuba), the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC: Hawaii) and the International Arctic Research Center (IARC: Alaska). The FRSGC had 79 scientists as of August 1998. Detailed information on FRSGC activities can be obtained at their Web site, http://www.frontier.esto.or.jp/.

Norikazu Matsuoka (matsuoka@atm.geo.tsukuba.ac.jp) Rikie Suzuki (suzuki@frontier.bosai.go.jp) Nobuyoshi Ishikawa (nobu@pop.lowtem.hokudai.ac.jp) Atsushi Sato (asato@nieds.shinjo.bosai.go.jp)


Observations of the dynamics of cryogenic processes (frost heaving and solifluction) at special polygons and geothermal monitoring of permafrost and seasonally frozen ground in Zailiysky Alatau Range (Northern Tien Shan) and adjoining plains are continuing.
An analysis of climatological data from high-mountain weather stations situated in the Northern Tien Shan for the last 120 years has been undertaken. An increase in annual, summer and winter air temperatures at various altitudes is indicated. An increase in mean annual temperature of 2.1°C for 1880–1996 is observed. This increase in air temperature is accompanied by other climatic effects such as glacier degradation, warming of alpine permafrost, and an increase in the movement rate of rock glaciers.

A rising trend is seen in permafrost temperature during 1974–97 of 0.2–0.3°C under natural conditions and up to 0.6°C in areas of human activity. Active layer thickness increased an average of 30%.
Numerical modeling shows that a rise in mean annual temperature of 2.5°C may lead to an increase in the absolute altitude of the lower permafrost boundary of 200–250 m.
On this basis a Predictive Map of Permafrost Distribution in Central Northern Tien Shan has been compiled at 1:200,000. Current research includes:


  • Monitoring of the thermal regime of permafrost, seasonally frozen ground, active layer thickness, dynamics of rock glaciers
  • Modeling of mountain permafrost in connection with climate changes
  • Role of regional and local factors in the extent of perennial and seasonal freezing
  • Geocryological mapping—various scales and purposes
  • Needle ice and its influence on a soil–vegetative cover
  • Role of cryogenic and post-cryogenic processes in mud-flow origin
  • Investigations of short-term permafrost conditions (pereletok) in the mountains and plains of Kazakstan
  • Creation of an electronic map of glaciers (aerial data of 1954, 1979, 1990) and permafrost distribution in the Northern Tien Shan (scale 1:200,000) in cooperation with Kazak glaciologists
  • The CALM observations continue. Prospective research for interested investigators includes:
  • Modeling and automated mapping of mountain permafrost in Asia
  • Determination of age and rate of creation of cryogenic forms (rock glaciers, thufur, solifluction terraces and lobes, patterned ground)
  • Investigation of cryogenic deformation (cryoturbation, frost fracturing, solifluction), and influence of pedogenic carbon concentration
  • Subglacial permafrost investigations
  • Influence of blocks of porous material on the thermal state of ground and associated processes (evaporation, ice formation, etc.)

A.P. Gorbunov and S.S. Marchenko (ingeo@kazmail.asdc.kz)


Permafrost underlies about 63% of Mongolia. To support studies of permafrost conditions for practical and scientific purposes N. Lonzhid organized a permafrost station in 1959. From 1962 to 1996 the station was run by the Department of Permafrost of the Institute of Geography and Geocryology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. It was renamed the Laboratory of Permafrost of the Institute of Geoecology in 1997. The department was headed by N. Lonzhid from 1962 to 1969, by N. Sharkhuu from 1970 to 1979, and by
D. Tumurbaatar since 1980. From 1962 to 1990 the department was staffed by 10–15 researchers and workers and had drilling equipment and a soils laboratory. Since 1990 it has had a smaller staff of 8–10 persons and has had to do without the drilling capability and the soils lab.

The Geocryological Department of Moscow State University and the Permafrost Institute, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences have rendered considerable assistance by training highly skilled specialists and supplying some devices. Senior scientific researchers, in particular N. Sharkhuu, are now engaged in studying the permafrost conditions of Mongolia on the basis of temperature measurements in boreholes. Since 1967 the depth and dynamics of seasonal freezing and thawing of ground have been studied by D. Tumurbaatar. Since 1987 the distribution and features of cryogenic processes and phenomena have been studied by R. Lomborenchen. At present, no permafrost studies are being carried out in Mongolia by other institutes. However, before 1990 some data on the permafrost characteristics of particular areas were obtained by Mongolian geotechnical and hydrogeological surveys. In addition, also until 1990, PNIIIS in Mongolia conducted engineering geocryological surveys at several sites and compiled some reports and maps.
The joint Mongolian and Russian geocryological expedition carried out from 1967–71 was of great significance to permafrost studies in Mongolia. A geocryological map on a scale of 1:1,500,000 was compiled and a monograph on geocryological conditions was published. A preliminary permafrost study by Japan and Mongolia began in 1998. The National Permafrost Association became an Adhering Body of the IPA in 1995.
Over the last 30 years these works have been published:

  • N. Lonzhid, 1969. Perennially frozen ground in Mongolia
  • N. Sharkhuu, 1975. Basic features of permafrost in Mongolia
  • D. Tumurbaatar, 1975. Seasonal freezing and thawing of ground in Mongolia
  • D. Luvsandagva, 1987. Perennially frozen ground in the Khangai and Khubsugul Mountains

Hundreds of scientific articles have also been published, but only about 10 have been translated into English. Recently, monographs by N. Sharkhuu (Regularities in formation of permafrost conditions in the Selenge River Basin, 1997) and by N. Sharkhuu, D. Tumurbaatar and R. Lomborenchen (Permafrost conditions in Mongolia, 1998) have been prepared.
N. Sharkhuu has carried out temperature measurements in many boreholes in Nalaikh, Baganuur, Argalant and Erdenet and on Bogdkhan Mountain. As a result of the measurements, permafrost maps of the Nalaikh and Baganuur areas and Bogdkhan Mountain have been compiled. N. Sharkhuu has prepared more than 20 permafrost maps of different regions at various scales. Almost all the legends were translated into English. Three catalogues on the characteristics of more than 70 boreholes with permafrost were prepared and translated and are available to the IPA.
We are interested in studying the permafrost conditions of Mongolia in more detail, and hope that these studies may be carried out in close collaboration with scientists from other Adhering Bodies of the IPA.

N. Sharkhuu (geoeco@magicnet.mn)

The Netherlands

In The Netherlands most work on permafrost is focused on establishing relationships between permafrost development and climatic conditions and on the impact of permafrost on river dynamics. Work in present-day permafrost regions is relatively limited: Greenland (Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam), Russia (TUNDRA project in Pechora basin: VU Amsterdam, Utrecht U.), Russia (Taimyr, Nature Management Affairs), Svalbard (Groningen University).
Much attention has been paid in the last five years to the reconstruction of past permafrost in western and central Europe during several episodes of the last glacial period and the related climatic conditions (VU Amsterdam). Several Ph.D. theses and many scientific papers appeared on the subject of palaeo-periglacial river dynamics.

Jef Vandenberghe (vanj@geo.vu.nl)

New Zealand

Within the 1997–98 New Zealand Antarctic Research Program studies of dry frozen permafrost were carried out by Doug Sheppard, New Zealand Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Iain Campbell, Land and Soil Consultancy, and William Mahaney, Atkinson College, Toronto. The till deposits studied are part of a high altitude sequence (around 1800 m elevation) which are believed to be old tills, possibly Miocene aged, deposited from a previous expansion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The main purpose of the investigation was to study the geochemistry of salt horizons within the permafrost and to obtain samples for Be-10 dating.
Recovery of two years of soil temperature data (Iain Campbell and Graeme Claridge) from a datalogger in a dry frozen soil has allowed the position of the permafrost table to be accurately determined. During 1998–99 summer installation of three soil temperature and moisture monitoring sites in the coastal McMurdo Sound–Dry Valley region is planned with the assistance of the USDA (John Kimble and Ron Paetzold). These sites will contribute to a more extensive Antarctic permafrost monitoring network.

Results have been completed from a study headed by Warren Dickinson, Victoria University of Wellington, who investigated a till deposit from the controversial-aged Sirius Formation. Samples from a 3.5-m-deep hole revealed authigenic quartz, zeolite and calcite in the pore network suggesting that there must have been appreciable quantities of water present some time previously.
During the 1998–99 summer season, Paul Augustinus, University of Auckland, will undertake subsurface imaging of raised beaches on the Southern Victoria Land and Ross Island Coasts. The project involves ground penetrating radar and resistivity surveys of the beaches with the primary objective of mapping permafrost and buried ice. Other personnel involved are Ed Butler (Antarctic Unit, Victoria University of Wellington) and Scott Nichol (Geography Department, University of Auckland).
The Eighth International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Science will be held in Wellington, New Zealand, 5–9 July 1999. With a growing interest in permafrost geochemistry in New Zealand, the organizers are hopeful that there might be sufficient interest to hold a permafrost session. If interested, contact Warren Dickinson (Warren.Dickinsen@vuw.ac.nz).
Iain Campbell (campbell.lsc@xtra.co.nz) Paul Augustinus (p.augustinus@auckland.ac.nz)


A meeting was held in January 1998 at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. Fourteen representatives from universities and research institutes working with permafrost were present:

  • Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
  • University of Oslo, Department of Geography
  • Norwegian University for Science and Technology
  • University Studies on Svalbard
  • Norwegian Polar Research Institute
  • Norwegian Road Research Laboratory

The aim of the meeting was to establish better cooperation between organizations engaged in education, research, planning and operation of facilities in permafrost. The intent is to find the best solutions (technically, economically, environmentally) to problems arising from human activity in permafrost regions.
The participants documented their present activities:

  • Arctic Oil Spills on Russian Permafrost Soils, Norwegian Research Council, NFR program
  • Permafrost and Climate in Europe (PACE), EU program
  • Understanding Land Surface Processes in the Arctic (LAAP), EU program
  • Dynamics of the Seasonal Snow Cover in the Arctic (ALV), NFR program
  • Climate Change, Use of Permafrost Data as an Indicator
  • Studies of Rock Glaciers on Svalbard
  • Svea Permafrost Station, Svalbard
  • Pollution Problems on Permafrost
  • Student projects and thesis work on slope stability, solifluction, rock glaciers, frost action in soils, hydrology, pollution and offshore ice loads

Better cooperation can obviously bring more data to light. Some areas like engineering geology mapping and field observations on structures need more attention.
Information has been a problem since the publishing of Frost i Jord ceased some years ago. It is necessary to use existing journals more actively. A “local” newsletter may be needed to make activities better known.
The University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS), a private foundation established by the Norwegian government and owned by Norway’s four universities, is located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The objective of the foundation is to offer university courses and to perform research relevant to Svalbard’s geographical location in the high Arctic. The courses complement the teaching given by the mainland universities, and they form part of the standard courses of study that lead to examinations and degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. UNIS began operation in autumn 1993 when its first 23 students attended courses in Arctic Geology and Arctic Geophysics. In autumn 1994 the subjects offered were expanded to include Arctic Biology, and a total of 33 students were admitted. The Arctic Technology program was introduced in the autumn of 1996, and today there are 18 technology students at UNIS: 14 undergraduate, 2 graduate M.Sc., and 2 Ph.D. In spring 1998 UNIS had a total of 129 students from 17 different countries.
The Arctic Technology program at UNIS aims at providing students an understanding of the pristine environment and the technology required for sustainable industrial development and exploitation of the biological and mineral resources of the region. Two courses that focus on permafrost and frozen ground related problems are Frozen Ground Engineering for Arctic Infrastructure and Arctic Water Resources Management. Other courses are: Thermo-Mechanical Properties of Materials, Pollution in the Arctic, and Arctic Offshore Engineering. Contact: Professor Truls Molmann, UNIS, P.O. Box 156, Longyearbyen 9170, Norway.

Kaare Flaate (kaare.flaate@vegdir.vegvesen.telemax.no) Truls Molmann (truls@unis.no)


This report summarizes activities for the period 1993– 1998. Many of the earlier activities were reported in detail in previous issues of Frozen Ground. Annual meetings of the Council on Earth Cryology were held in Pushchino, Moscow region, in late April of each year at the Institute of Soil Sciences and Photosynthesis, Russian Academy of Sciences. The 1993 meeting resulted in 80 papers on the subjects of general and engineering geocryology. In 1994, 93 papers were presented, many of which concerned global climate warming and permafrost. In 1995 the main topic of the meeting was evolutionary geocryological processes in the Arctic regions and global changes of the environment and climate in permafrost areas. A number of foreign scientists participated in the meetings.

In 1996, the Russian Academy of Sciences restructured its permafrost organizations. The National Permafrost Committee and the Scientific Council on Earth Cryology were combined as the Consolidated Scientific Council on Earth Cryology, chaired by Vladimir P. Melnikov. The first annual meeting of the new Council was held in Pushchino during the International Conference on Fundamental Research of Earth Cryosphere in the Arctic and Subarctic. The conference was organized by the Council and was attended by approximately 125 participants, including 10 foreign scientists and engineers. A total of 109 abstracts were published in Russian and English in a special volume (234 pages).
On 3–5 June 1996 the First Conference of Geocryologists of Russia was held at Moscow State University. It was organized and sponsored by 16 main geocryological institutions of Russia and chaired by E.D. Ershov and co-chairs
V.V. Baulin and R.M. Kamensky. A total of 165 reports were published in three pre-conference volumes in Russian.
In 1997, several major geocryological and cryopedological conferences were held in Russia as reported in Frozen Ground No. 21. Cryopedology ‘97: Second International Conference was held in Syktyvkar in the Komi Republic.
The annual meeting in Pushchino entitled International Conference on the Problems of Earth Cryosphere (Basic and Applied Studies) resulted in 162 abstracts. There were a total of 140 Russian and 30 foreign participants.
The 1998 conference in Puschino was dedicated to the 90th birthday of Academician P.I. Melnikov, who died in 1994. Plenary lectures covered Melnikov’s main research interests. The main sessions contained 151 papers, with abstracts published in Russian and English.
Analysis of the five-year cycle of Pushchino conferences shows increased reporting activity by Russian geocryologists. Several topics gained more attention (monitoring, geoinformation, modeling, trace gases, offshore permafrost, microorganisms in permafrost). Some traditional permafrost studies were less active (regional studies, permafrost survey, hydrogeocryology). Studies that can contribute to solving the problem of permafrost response to global climate change were of great interest (periglacial processes prediction, active-layer dynamics). Less interest in applied ecological studies was compensated by greater activity in engineering studies in connection with construction stability.
Among other activities in the last five years was the publication starting in 1997 of the new quarterly Russian journal Earth Cryosphere (see Publications, pages 39–40, for more information and contents of the 1998 volume).
The Geocryological Map of the U.S.S.R (1:2,500,000) with explanatory note (edited by E.D. Ershov) in 16 sheets was published in December 1996. The map summarizes the results of a 25-year research effort by the Geocryology Department, Faculty of Geology, Moscow State University (see Publications).
Program 18, Environment and Global Climate Change, and its permafrost component included the assessment or estimate of the influence of climate change on the cryolithozone; monitoring of the cryolithozone; and methods and measures to protect construction and the environment in the North. Numerous institutes, universities and private contractors are involved. The program is financed by the Ministry of Science under the direction of Yuri Israel and Academician George Golitsin. The permafrost program was initially directed by Academician P.I. Melnikov and the Scientific Council on Earth Cryology.
Cooperation of Russian permafrost scientists and German geoscientists started in 1995 (N.N. Romanovskii, F. Are) in the framework of the Russian–German project Laptev Sea System (1994–96). The results of investigations showed the influence of cryogenic processes in the evolution of the Laptev Sea system’s environment. Coastal and offshore permafrost investigations, including field, laboratory and modeling studies, are included in the next joint project, Laptev Sea 2000 (1998–2000). German collaborators are H.W. Hubberten (Alfred Wegener Institute on Polar and Marine Research) and H. Kassens (GEOMAR). Russian permafrost scientists took part in planning of permafrost investigations in several other international projects (RAISE, LOIRA, BASIS).
Eighteen Russian CALM sites are active. Based on measurements from experimental sites, engineering methods to protect construction are being developed, including use of thermopiles, thermosyphons, insulation, and special foundations using horizontal cooling of frozen basements.
The National Geocryological Foundation (NGF) was established in Russia in 1996 for the purpose of collecting and disseminating permafrost data. Information on several Russian institutions’ data collections is stored in the NGF. Specific regional databases are devised under its aegis. Metadata concerning digital and paper databases on Yakutia, Transbaikal, the Norilsk region, West Siberia, and European North Russia are available. A number of data sets and several bibliographies were contributed to the GGD and the CAPS CD.

Compiled by Marina O. Liebman (mleibman@glas.apc.org) for V.P. Melnikov (root@ikz.tyumen.su)


The third meeting of IPA–Spain was held in Andorra la Vella 17–19 July 1997. The 20 papers focused on the common theme of the dynamics and evolution of natural systems in cold climates and covered a range of geographical areas: the Iberian Peninsula (Pyrenees, Picos de Europa, the Galician and Portuguese massifs, Sierra de Gredos, Sierra Nevada), the Antarctic (South Shetland Islands), and Sweden (Tarfala Valley) (see Publications, page 41).
Three special talks helped unify the topics and provide a global perspective. Gérard Soutadé spoke about the importance of past and present cold-climate processes in the morphology of Andorra. André Baudière discussed the phytogeomorphological substitution taking place in the supraforest landscapes of the mountains in Catalonia. José L. Peña Monné summarized the status and prospects of current studies in Spain on cold-climate processes.

The papers represented a wide diversity and interrelationship among topics, but may be grouped according to:

  • Subjects relating to climate and its influence on cold-climate processes (J.M. Raso et al., M. Ramos et al.)
  • The effects of climate on geomorphological events (E. Martínez de Pisón et al., M. Fronchoso Sánchez et al.)
  • Geomorphological topics, including the present dynamics of certain morphologies such as the functionality of rock glaciers (E. Serrano Cañadas et al.), or debris flows and the processes associated with their relationship to resulting periglacial forms (David Palacios Estremera et al.). Other topics under this heading include processes and periglacial forms at high elevations (E. Serrano Cañadas et al.) and periglacial landforms caused by past or recent slope collapse (J. Chueca Cía et al.).
  • Systematic monitoring of specific cold-climate processes at designated research stations (A. Gómez Ortiz et al., J. Garcia Ruiz et al., A. Pérez Alberti, David Palacios Estremera et al.).

Antonio Gómez Ortiz (gomez@trivium.gh.ub.es)


The following is a brief survey of groups having activities and interests in frozen ground and related topics.
Department of Physical Geography, Uppsala University:
The department has begun to emphasize research in cold climates concerning landforms, processes and dynamics, and their relationship to environmental conditions in the past and present.
Else Kolstrup has set up a research program on boundary constraints of geomorphological forms and processes in past and present periglacial environments. Several faculty and partly-NFR-funded subprojects involve a thesis study by Bo Westin on boundary constraints of thermal contraction cracking and research student Frieda Zuidhoff’s project on palsas in Lapland.
Philip Wookey, Else Kolstrup and Göran Possnert have recently begun an NFR-funded project Climate Change, Soil Organic Matter Lability and Decomposer Metabolism in High Latitude Soils in northern Iceland. Wookey is participating in an EU project Dynamic Response of the Forest–Tundra Ecotone to Environmental Change (DART). A research student, Sofie Sjögersten, is investigating soil processes and trace gas fluxes in relation to tree-line dynamics in Fennoscandia.

Department of Physical Geography, Lund University:
As a result of recent administrative decisions research in Arctic and alpine geomorphology has been greatly reduced. Some activities continue through personal initiatives of professors emeriti Harald Svensson, Anders Rapp and J.O. Mattsson, and others. Svensson is maintaining field work and observations on fossil periglacial features on the southwest Swedish lowlands. Rapp is maintaining field observations in the Abisko area and is also organizing workshops and field symposia in the northern Swedish mountains. Mattsson continues editing the Geografiska Analer from Lund.
Other projects that remain active, essentially on a voluntary basis, are:

  • Kärkevagge: Through international cooperation and funding and the support of the Abisko Research Station and its staff, A. Rapp and P. Schlyter continue geomorphological monitoring in the Kärkevagge valley. A number of field workshops have been organized in cooperation with the Abisko Research Station.
  • Abisko area: In cooperation with the station, J. Åkerman is maintaining the CALM active layer sites along the east-west transect in the Abisko area. The ten active layer sites have been monitored since 1978 and annual basic data are presented within the CALM reporting system. Summary data appear on the IPA CAPS CD.
  • Kapp Linne area, Svalbard: J. Åkerman is maintaining a limited monitoring program on periglacial processes and their climatic significance. The active layer monitoring program was started in 1972 and is now maintained within the CALM network. A vegetation map and a digital elevation model of vegetation and geomorphology forms and processes of the Kapp Linne area were completed as M.Sc. projects and await publication.
  • Permafrost distribution in Sweden: Revisions to the IPA Circum-Arctic Permafrost Map, including more details, are planned by Åkerman.

The Department and Åkerman remain responsible for the Swedish IPA.

Abisko Research Station, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:
The station has a number of permafrost-related research activities, many in cooperation with other institutions in Sweden and elsewhere. Personnel presently involved in permafrost-related research include: Christer Jonasson, Deputy Director, and Johan Kling, Abisko Scientific Research Station; Ph.D. students Markus Lundqvist and Markku Pyykönen, and M.Sc. student Karin Aune, Uppsala University; Gunhild Rosqvist, Ph.D. student Lena Johansson and M.Sc. students Johan Rytters, Ann-Helen Kronfjäll and Camilla Hansen, Stockholm University.
Ongoing projects include:

  • Monitoring of present-day geomorphological processes
  • Slope process variations during the Holocene
  • Lake sediment studies and paleogeomorphology
  • Base-line geomorphological studies in the Torneträsk area
  • Present-day fluvial delta formation
  • Permafrost studies in the Torneträsk region
  • Avalanche monitoring and prediction
  • Eolian deposition in mountain areas

International cooperation involves fieldwork on snow-melt processes in the Kärkevagge valley with colleagues from Switzerland (Dieter Scherer, Basel University) and Germany (Martin Gude, Jena University), and collaboration with the Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow (slope processes), and Krknose National Park, Czech Republic (nature conservation–geomorphology).

  • Several conferences with common interests were held:
  • Research for Mountain Area Development–Europe, September 1997, report published in AMBIO Volume XXVII, June 1998
  • Research for Mountain Area Development–Africa and Asia, September 1998
  • Past Climates and Environment in Northern Scandinavia: Reconstruction from Multiple Sources, October 1998

Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University:
A number of activities are associated with projects financed or organized by the Swedish Polar Secretariat that include both the Antarctic and the Arctic. Reports of department activities are found in Reports and Newsletter of the Swedish Polar Secretariat (http://www.polar.kva.se). Periglacial and permafrost research have been carried out at the Tarfala Research Station, and field courses and workshops have been conducted. Stockholm is a partner in the EU-funded Permafrost and Climate in Europe (PACE) project, utilizing the excellent facilities in Tarfala. Contact Per Holmlund (per.holmlund@natgeog.su.se)

Lulea University of Technology:
The engineering and geotechnical aspects of frozen ground in Sweden are covered by the Department of Civil Engineering. The department is represented in IPA engineering working groups and many international organizations dealing with applied aspects of frozen ground. The International Symposium on Ground Freezing and Frost Action in Soils washeld in Lulea in April 1997. Contact Sven Knutsson (sven.knutsson@ce.luth.se); (http:// www.luth.se/depts/anl/frost97/)

Report compiled by Jonas Åkerman (agrisys@zamnet.zm) with contributions by Anders Rapp, Else Kolstrup (else.kolstrup@natgeog.uu.se) Christer Jonasson (christer.jonasson@ans.kiruna.se)


In collaboration among the Swiss Academy for Sciences (SAS), the Swiss Alpine Club, ETH Zurich and the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg, a project was set up to establish a concept for the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network. The stations are separated into three levels—low, middle and high-cost stations—mainly focusing on the thermal regime of the permafrost. Additional information is expected from other long-term observations like photogrammetry, borehole deformation, hydrology, etc.
Following the restructuring of the Glaciological Commission of SAS at the beginning of 1997, the task of this body has been expanded with respect to snow and permafrost. Delegates for glacier observation (M. Hoelzle) and for perma-frost (D. Vonder Mühll) were appointed. The latter is in charge of connecting with international organizations, and acts as the national contact for the IPA, the Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost of the SAS.

Since there was much new information to report following publication of Frozen Ground No. 21 in December 1997, it was decided to produce a newsletter for the Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost of the SAS, called Permafrost News Flash. Articles in several languages report what’s going on in Working Groups and projects dealing with permafrost. The Permafrost News Flash is to be published as needed, at least once a year.
The EU-project Permafrost and Climate in Europe (PACE) officially started on 1 December 1997. Twenty-two scientists attended the first coordinating meeting, held 22–25 March in St. Moritz.
On 3 May 1998 the 100-m-deep borehole at Hanssonhaugen in Svalbard was established. A thermistor chain was lowered on 7 May, and has been reading temperatures since. The drilling was a collaboration between Norwegian and Swiss partners.
The Hydrological Atlas of Switzerland includes tables relating to phenomena linked to hydrology. The Swiss Coordinating Group on Permafrost was asked to provide a table for the atlas on permafrost. The table has been co-produced by six institutes and will be published in early 1999.
The ETH Research Commission funded a three-year project in which the Institute of Geotechnics (S. Springman), the Institute of Geophysics (H.R. Maurer), and the VAW
(D. Vonder Mühll) will investigate the Muragl rock glacier as an example of a creeping permafrost body. Boreholes, core analysis, cross-hole geophysics, and long-term monitoring will be performed.
Matthias Wegmann defended his Ph.D. thesis on Rock Stability in Permafrost. He measured a number of geotechnical parameters such as temperature and deformation in the crest near Jungfraujoch. In addition, he investigated the thermal behavior using numerical models.
Two Ph.D. students working on permafrost at the Universities of Lausanne and Fribourg are about to finish their theses. Others have just started or will shortly start their work.


Daniel Vonder Mühll (vdmuehll@vaw.baum.ethz.ch)

United Kingdom

The British National Adhering Body of IPA held a two-day Periglacial Workshop on 16 and 17 December 1997 at the University of Cardiff. The meeting was organized by Charles Harris and Julian Murton in association with the IPA Working Group on Periglacial Processes and Environments, the IGU Commission on Climate Change and Periglacial Environments, and the Cryostratigraphic Research Group of the Quaternary Research Association.
The first day focused on cryostratigraphy, with keynote papers by Hugh French on cryostratigraphic methods, Jef Vandenberghe on climate change and periglacial environments, and Julian Murton on the cryostratigraphy and dating of thermokarst lake deposits in the Pleistocene Mackenzie Delta, N.W.T., Canada. Presentations were also given by Matti Seppälä (Helsinki), Stephen Gurney (Reading), Steve Boreham (Cambridge), M.K. Bateman (Sheffield), Hanne Christiansen (Copenhagen), Colin Ballantyne (St. Andrews), Andrew Rochelle (Wolverhampton), Brigitte Van Vliet-Lanoe (Lille), Hideki Miura (Tokyo), Charles Harris (Cardiff) and Julian Murton (Sussex).

The second day of the meeting concentrated on monitoring and modeling of periglacial processes. Keynote papers were presented by J-C Ozouf (Caen) on laboratory modeling of cryogenic weathering, Norikazu Matsuoka (Tsukuba) on monitoring and modeling periglacial soil moments, Wilfried Haeberli (Zurich) on key questions in rock glacier dynamics, and Michael Davies (Dundee) on geotechnical centrifuge modeling of cryogenic processes. Papers were also presented by David Robinson (Sussex), Colin Thorn (Illinois), Fiona Thompson (Warwick), Stanislav Grechishchev (Moscow), Charles Harris (Cardiff), Ole Humlum (Copenhagen) and Duncan Irving (Cardiff).
The workshop concluded with a visit to the Geotechnical Centrifuge Laboratory at the Cardiff University School of Engineering. The conference dinner was enlivened by musical entertainment provided by Wilfried Haeberli (flute), Norikazu Matsuoka (guitar), and Stanislav Grechishchev (piano). Selected papers from the workshop will be published in Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, and copies of abstracts may be obtained from Charles Harris at the University of Cardiff, P.O. Box 914, Cardiff CF1 3YE, UK.
The European PACE Programme (Permafrost and Climate in Europe) is coordinated by Charles Harris at the University of Cardiff (see Frozen Ground No. 21, pages 3– 4). The project held coordination meetings in Cardiff (December 1997) and St. Moritz, Switzerland (March 1998). Information, results and latest news from the PACE project may be found on the new Web site (http://www.cf.ac.uk/uwcc/earth/pace/) or by contacting the administrative secretary (meldrumke@cardiff.ac.uk).
The IPA Web site continues to be maintained by Julia Branson at the Geodata Institute, University of Southampton, U.K. (j.branson@soton.ac.uk)
Charles Harris (harrisc@cardiff.ac.uk)

United States of America

Completion of the CD-ROM Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS) by the staff of the National Snow and Ice Data Center was a major activity during 1998. Members of a small international Working Group met for several weeks in Boulder during February and March to prepare the final documentation. The group included Julia Branson and Mike Clark (U.K.), Marina Leibman (Russia), Jerry Brown (U.S.) and from NSIDC, Chris Haggerty, Claire Hanson, Ann Brennan and Roger Barry. Following demonstration of the prototype CD at Yellowknife over 350 disks were mailed to the Conference attendees and contributors to the CD (see inside back cover for more details). The CD was presented at the 17th Polar Libraries Colloquy in Reykjavik, Iceland, in September.
Several new National Science Foundation Arctic programs began in 1998: Arctic Transitions in the Land–Atmosphere System (ATLAS) and the Russian–American Initiative on Shelf–Land Environments in the Arctic (RAISE). The first set of RAISE proposals is under review.

ATLAS is the next terrestrial phase (1998–2002) of the Arctic System Science (ARCSS) program and is focusing on north–central Alaska and ultimately on projects in northeast Russia (see Frozen Ground No. 19 for the ARCSS report). Included are permafrost thermal studies by V. Romanovsky, soil carbon studies by C.L. Ping, University of Alaska, and the CALM network by Ken Hinkel, University of Cincinnati. The new five-year CALM project provides support to the existing Russian sites (see Frozen Ground No. 21), the establishment of a Web site, and collation of all site data for transfer annually to the WDC-A in Boulder. As the first step in the new CALM project, F.E. Nelson met in Moscow in May with Russian investigators to discuss summer 1998 sampling and equipment. The CALM protocol was reviewed at a meeting in Yellowknife. Ron Paetzold and C.L. Ping instrumented a site for soil temperature and moisture at the Fenghuo Shan Station, Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) Plateau, in cooperation with Zhao Lin and the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology.
NSF support of the U.S. International Tundra Experiment projects continues for sites at Barrow, Atqasuk and Toolik in Alaska and Niwot Ridge in Colorado, as well as permafrost–climate modeling (Nelson at University of Delaware) and data analysis (Barry at University of Colorado).
Of the 50 U.S. participants at the Yellowknife Conference, 14 (including 7 students) received partial support from an NSF travel grant to the American Geophysical Union.
The Ninth International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering was held in Duluth, Minnesota, 27–30 September 1998. The conference theme Cold Regions Impacts on Civil Works was addressed in 24 technical sessions, and there was an exhibition of engineering products and services developed for cold regions. The Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering (TCCRE) committees met to plan future activities. The State of the Practice Committee is in the final phases of preparation of a new monograph entitled Piles in Frozen Ground. The ASCE President-Elect Daniel
S. Turner reappointed R. G. Tart as the ASCE Liaison Representative to the USC/IPA, and requested he report IPA activities to the ASCE as they relate to civil engineering.
Special sessions on permafrost continue to be organized by Bernard Hallet at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In 1997 a session honoring A.L. Washburn resulted in 25 oral and poster abstracts and presentations. The 1998 session is being held to honor A.H. Lachenbruch and his contributions to permafrost and geothermal research; 59 reports are planned.
Syun Akasofu, Director of the newly established International Arctic Research Center (IARC), University of Alaska, reports that the Center’s primary goal is to study Arctic climate change. Eight broad research subjects are identified as the framework:


  1. Detection of contemporary change,
  2. Paleoclimatic reconstruction of past changes,
  3. Interactions and feedback that affect change,
  4. Atmospheric chemistry of the Arctic region,
  5. Impacts and consequences of change,
  6. Space weather prediction,
  7. Tectonics in the Arctic, and
  8. Integration of 1-7 on a regional scale.

The first seven subjects will be studied by researchers from Japan, the US, and International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) participating countries.
The program FROSTFIRE, a landscape-scale prescribed fire experiment, is underway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, in the Caribou–Poker Creeks Research Watersheds. A research project Improving Predictive Capability of Boreal Forest Response to Forest Fires seeks to determine the impacts and interrelated effects of fire on boreal ecosystems in a 2600-acre sub-watershed (C4). This diverse project includes studies related to fire science, nutrient dynamics, permafrost and vegetation response and recovery, climatic influence and feedbacks, and hydrology. The research will measure the carbon storage and flux in a boreal forest. This program is sponsored by the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, Kyoto, Japan. The principal investigators are Masami Fukuda of Hokkaido University and Larry Hinzman, University of Alaska Fairbanks. International participants include scientists from the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, and the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada.
Gary Clow, U.S. Geological Survey, reports that he has established six new climate-monitoring stations in northern Alaska at Tunalike, Awuna, Umiat, Inigok, West Fish Creek, and Drew Point. These stations provide increased spatial coverage and are associated with the deep geothermal bore-hole sites reported on the CAPS CD-ROM.
To improve communication concerning scientific and technical aspects of permafrost, active layer and frozen ground studies, Tom Osterkamp, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, has established an electronic (e-mail), unmoderated and international discussion list. It is supported by the University of Alaska computer staff in Fairbanks. If you wish to become part of this discussion list (i.e. to subscribe to the list), send the following command (and only this command) in the body of an e-mail message:SUBSCRIBE PALS-L to: listserve@galileo.admin.uaf.edu.
The server (computer) should automatically send you a welcome and instruction message which will enable you to take part in discussions.
Compiled by Jerry Brown (jerrybrown@igc.org) with contributions by Larry Hinzman (ffldh@aurora.alaska.edu) and Bucky Tart (btart@golder.com)

South Africa

The main focus of activity during the past year was on planning for the poster sessions and excursion linked to the INQUA conference that will be held in Durban, South Africa, in August 1999. A post-conference excursion to Sani Pass will be of particular interest to IPA and to its new Working Group on Southern Hemisphere Permafrost and Periglacial Environments (SHWG). The excursion will examine periglacial features, blockstreams, valley asymmetry, sedimentary successions and contemporary periglacial microforms on top of the Drakensberg and Lesotho mountains. A key issue will be the contrasting periglacial and glacial hypotheses for Pleistocene palaeoenvironments.
During the INQUA Congress two poster sessions with associated workshops will be of particular interest to IPA: Southern Hemisphere Periglacial Research and Quaternary Environmental Change (contact Jan Boelhouwers or Kevin Hall) and Current Periglacial Research and Palaeoclimatic Reconstruction (contact Stefan Grab or Ian Meiklejohn).

Other activities undertaken under the auspices of the SAPG, or by its members, during the past year include:

  1. Two field workshops at Sani Pass were conducted under the leadership of Jan Boelhouwers. Emphasis was on boulder streams and their use as palaeoclimatic indicators. It is suggested that periglacial conditions existed and that the only possible glaciation is in the form of niche glaciers.
  2. Ongoing field research on sub-Antarctic Marion Island by Jan Boelhouwers and Ian Meiklejohn includes an ice-mass balance study on the Marion Island icefield, monitoring of cryogenic processes, landforms and rock weathering.
  3. Paul Sumner is investigating open-work block deposits in the Hogsback region, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, to find geomorphic evidence for Pleistocene palaeoclimates. He conducted a field workshop during June 1998. These features have previously been used to argue for Pleistocene periglacial gradients and snowlines.

Ian Meiklejohn (kim@nsnper1.up.ac.za)


A field trip and symposium were organized on behalf of the IGU Commission on Climate Change and Periglacial Environments from 26–29 August 1998 in Portugal, in conjunction with the IGU Regional Conference that took place in Lisbon (30 August –2 September). The field trip was dedicated to the glacial and periglacial geomorphology of the Serra da Estrela, and was organized by Antonio de Brum Ferreira and Gonçalo Teles Vieira (Centro de Estudos Geográficos, University of Lisbon). Thirteen visiting participants from Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark and Spain attended.
The highest mountains in Portugal (Serra da Estrela,1993 m asl) were glaciated by an ice cap and several valley glaciers during the Weichselian. The field trip focused on relict glacial and periglacial phenomena. The main aspects of the Pleistocene glaciation were presented and observed. Visits to periglacial sites included the observation of the head deposits of Sao Gabriel, the screes of Várzea do Crasto, the stratified coarse sand deposits of Barroca de Agua, and the Alto da Pedrice blockslope. The latter site presents a significant relict macrogelivation. The age of the deposit, its genesis and environmental conditions were discussed. Present-day cryogenic processes and their relationship with hydric and aeolian processes were also treated. The geomorphological significance of wind in the plateaus was observed in the Cantaro Raso and Fraga das Penhas areas.

In a marginal periglacial environment like the Serra da Estrela, with a Mediterranean climate where annual precipitation averages 2500 mm and mean annual temperature in the summit regions is 3–4°C, the present-day geomorphological dynamics are the result of the complex interaction between different processes (e.g. needle ice, deflation, runoff). Therefore it is difficult to attribute a single genetic mechanism to most of the observed features (e.g. coarse sand accumulations, incipient patterned ground, vegetation crescents).
On the afternoon of 29 August a symposium on Periglacial Landscapes: Their Development, Preservation and Climatic Significance was held in the Faculdade de Letras (University of Lisbon). Jef Vandenberghe chaired the session and presented a report on climatic control of periglacial river patterns. Six oral presentations followed, divided in two groups: Mediterranean and tropical areas, and high latitude areas. The symposium provided the opportunity for discussions among researchers from different areas and resulted in valuable suggestions for future research. The significance of the marginal mountains and of their sensitive and complex geomorphic responses to climate was emphasized.
Gonçalo Teles Vieira (gtvieira@ceg.ul.pt)


Monitoring of permafrost conditions continues in the Retezat, Parâng and Fagaras Mountains (Southern Carpathians). The results of BTS and summer temperature measurements of springs situated at the base of block fields in the Apuseni Mountains (western part of Romanian Carpathians) indicate the existence of sporadic permafrost at low elevations (1050–1100 m asl). A map has been prepared on the geomorphologic risks associated with the Transfagarasan highway area, which is situated in the central part of the highest massif of Romania, the Fagaras Mountains (2544 m). A bibliography prepared on the glacial and periglacial geomorphological problems contains 332 references. Mapping and monitoring of periglacial processes in the Tarcu Mountains (C. Gruia), Lotrului Mountains (C. Ancuta), Surianu Mountains (L. Dragut) and Cernei Mountains (D. Gureanu) continue. A. Szepesi (Bucarest) in his doctoral dissertation modeled and identified the existence of permafrost in the Iezer Mountains.
Petru Urdea (urdea@cbg.uvt.ro)