YAKOUTSK, November 16. / TASS /. Russian scientists are working on a geo-information system and a database on permafrost conditions in Yakutia. The system will be released online in 2022, deputy director of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute (Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences), Alexander Fyodorov, told TASS.
Previously, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to make the necessary changes to the legislation, related to the organization of a state system for monitoring permafrost. Such a system, he said, could be organized at the national hydrometeorological service, Roshydromet. In addition, the president has ordered to plan the necessary spending in the federal budget for 2023 and for the planned period of 2024 and 2025.
“In 2017, the institute made a map of the permafrost and landscape of Yakutia,” the scientist said. “Right now, specialists are analyzing and interpreting maps, making new mapping models.”
“Using this data, experts are working on the geocryological map of Yakutia, which will show dangerous ice areas, permafrost temperatures, thaw depths and cryogenic processes,” he continued. “This map will be used to create a database, which will contain all the information on the permafrost.”
The database will be launched in 2022, he added.
The database can be used for land use planning, for planning of buildings and structures, in the implementation of industrial projects. “This will give information to consider,” said the scientist. “We describe the models and the senior staff, engineers will be able to learn information about certain areas. “
“Anyone will be able to use the data, for example, in the construction of a house or buildings. People will choose plots that are safe in terms of cryogenic processes using the general models of the system and the database. Among other data, the base will contain information on the depth of massive ice layers: the closer they are to the surface, the more dangerous the area is for construction and development. In addition, we will publish information on the depths of the seasonal thaw layers in different landscapes. The relationship between the depth of the ice sheets and the depth of the seasonal melting will offer analytical information for practical purposes, ”he added.
The scientist pointed to the experience of Yakutia, where “local people, when they start building houses in dangerous areas, often make hills of soil, vertical foundations or use hollow pipes for winter cooling. It is very important to know the general patterns of a certain territory. The databases will promote sustainable living, ”the scientist said.
Maps and databases, he said, will be used to predict the rate of thawing permafrost and see possible negative processes affecting infrastructure and land development.
Adaptation to changes
The 95% of Yakutia’s territory is in the zone of absolute permafrost, he continued. Degradation causes waterlogging and less stability in permanently frozen soils. Previously, the institute’s experts said that about 40% of Yakutia’s territory faces risks from thawing permafrost, the degradation of which has been accentuated with climate change.
Scientists know many predictions of thawing permafrost, he continued. For example, US experts predict major changes in 2040. “We have recorded that soil temperatures in the tundra have increased by 2-3 degrees over the past 30 years, and by 0.5 degrees in the taiga,” did he declare.
From the 1990s, due to warming, active subsidence of soils began in open forest-free areas in the central and northern districts of Yakutia. “Our observations of ice areas show subsidence depths of 10-14 cm in watered thermokarst depressions and in grassland areas without active thermokarst development – around one centimeter,” the scientist said.
The most depressing examples of subsidence are abandoned arable land, areas of past forest fires, and areas of forests killed by Siberian silkworms or impacts on infrastructure. For example, the runway of the old Churapcha airport in central Yakutia, the waterway of the Lena river – Lake Muryu, and some territories inside the settlements.
The engineering structures and biological systems of the Arctic are highly dependent on permafrost and its active layers. Changes in frozen soil conditions affect both man-made objects and natural environments, where, for example, plant communities change. This is important for the indigenous population, especially for reindeer herders, as the replacement of plant communities by other plants leads to a change in the food supply and therefore affects traditional activities.
According to the scientist, Russia must have a complete control system to explain the negative changes in the permanently frozen soils. The system will be used for more accurate predictions, thus ensuring the security of existing and future engineering networks in the Arctic, as well as for estimating how processes may affect traditional lifestyles and occupations.
The new permafrost monitoring system will have several levels: one federal, one regional and municipal, as well as the level of companies, developing arctic deposits. Thus, the federal program to set up a network of monitoring stations will promote faster adaptation to climate change and prevent the devastating thaw of the permafrost.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, damage to Russia from thawing permafrost could reach 5,000 billion rubles ($ 68 billion) in 30 years. If the country fails to adapt to global climate change, the damage to infrastructure and the natural environment could be even greater.