Permafrost in the Usa Basin: distribution, characterisation, dynamics and effects on infrastructure

Updated 2001-04-06

- To support the further development of a geocryological database for the Usa Basin (East-European Russian Arctic), including key characteristics of permafrost such as distribution, coverage, temperature, active layer, etc. - To create GIS-based permafrost maps at the scale of 1:1,000,000 for the entire Usa Basin and at 1:100,000 for selected key sites. - To reconstruct the history of permafrost dynamics at key sites in the region over the last thousands of years using palaeoecological analysis and radiocarbon dating of peat deposits, and over the last few decades using remote sensing imagery and/or monitoring (base case scenario). - To predict permafrost dynamics at key sites in the region under future conditions of climate change (20-100 yrs), using a 1-dimensional permafrost model (future global change scenario). - To assess the effects of permafrost dynamics under base case and global change scenarios on urban, industrial and transportation infrastructure in the Usa Basin. Research activities Based on several representative sites, late Holocene permafrost dynamics will be characterized using palaeoecological techniques. Variability in permafrost conditions over the last few decades will be studied based on the available data from long-term monitoring station records and from a time series of remote sensing images (optional). Mathematical modelling of permafrost dynamics will be carried out for at least two sites and a forecast of permafrost degradation in the area under anticipated climate warming will be developed. The likely effects of permafrost degradation upon regional infrastructure (inhabited localities, heat and power engineering, coal and ore mines, oil and gas extracting complex, pipelines and railways) will be analyzed using a GIS approach. GIS data layers on permafrost dynamics and infrastructure will be compared in order to delimitate high risk areas based on existing infrastructure and anticipated permafrost degradation. Hereafter, the created GIS may serve as a basis for more detailed forecasting of permafrost dynamics under both natural and anthropogenic climate changes in lowland and alpine areas of the East-European Russian Arctic.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project
Comments and additional information:

The map and a corresponding database will be designed in ARC/Info GIS (Geographical Information System) format. The advantages of GIS technologies as applied to mapping are currently universally recognised: these are coverage overlay; automatic linkage with a semantic database of limitless volume; analytical opportunities; the ease of improving and adding to the database; the opportunity for fast reproduction of the maps, addition of accounts and tables of variable content depending on purpose. Permafrost GIS at a regional scale are not available for Russia. A GIS "Permafrost in the Usa Basin" will be the first full-scaled permafrost GIS representing one of the regions of the Russian North.

Time frame

Project time span
1999 - 2001
Data collection
not specified
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
N. Karstkarel
University of Groningen Faculty of Arts, Arctic Centre P.O. Box 716 9700 AS Groningen Netherlands
+31 50 3636834
+31 50 3634900
Other project contacts
Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26 9700 AS Groningen

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

permafrost maps, active layer depth, remote sensing (satelitte images) The project has two important phases. At the end of the first year, paper copy maps of permafrost conditions in the Usa Basin and selected subregions will become available, including all data from the reference boreholes. This information will then be transferred to a GIS and will also be made available to partners in the TUNDRA project for a better assessment of permafrost conditions and their effect on regional hydrology and ecosystem function. By the end of the project, after two years, all components of the project will come together in the completion of an assessment of the effect of permafrost dynamics on regional infrastructure under current conditions (including natural climate variability) and future global warming.


Regions studied
Pechora river
Other areas
Usa river basin
Stations or areas where observations are made

The chosen study area, roughly 65-68º N and 56-65º E, is the Basin of the Usa River, the largest tributary (190,000 km2) of the Pechora in the East-European Russian Arctic

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
Data will be available for other international programmes / projects from 1 January 2001 The following results are expected: - A permafrost GIS database of the Usa Basin (East-European Russian Arctic), consisting of a catalogue of reference boreholes with key characteristics (the GIS will characterize the current condition of permafrost in an area which mostly represents the tundra-taiga ecotone). - Long-term records of permafrost dynamics at selected boreholes at places over more than 30 years, and some additional field observations to cover knowledge and/or geographical gaps. - Paper copy permafrost maps of the entire Usa Basin (scale 1:1,000,000) and of selected subregions (scale 1:100,000). - A GIS on important regional infrastructure in the Usa Basin. - An assessment of past, present and future permafrost dynamics in relation to climate change, based on palaeoecological, remote sensing (optional), monitoring and modelling results. - An evaluation of high risk areas for infrastructure in the Usa Basin based on an analysis of permafrost evolution under conditions of global warming and the distribution of important infrastructure.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Not specified

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Other institutes involved in the project

- University of Lapland, Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi, Finland (Mr P. Kuhry, Project co-ordination). - Stock Company Polarnouralgeologia, Geocryological-Hydrogeological Group, Vorkuta, Russia (Mr N. Oberman). - Institute of Biology of the Ural Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Komi Scientific Center, Soil Department, Syktyvkar, Russia (Mrs G. Mazhitova) - University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA (Mr V. Romanovsky)

Is this project reporting to other organizations/programmes?

This project complements the objectives of the TUNDRA (TUNdra Degradation in the Russian Arctic) project, currently funded by the IV Framework 'Environment and Climate' Programme of the European Commission (Contract Nr. ENV4-CT97-0522). The TUNDRA project, which started 1.1.98 and has a duration of 3 years, assesses feedback from the Russian Arctic to the global climate system through changes in greenhouse gas emissions and in freshwater runoff. A common GIS (ARC/Info software) to be developed in the framework of TUNDRA will include data layers on topography, climate, vegetation, phytomass, soils, soil carbon, hydrology and pollution. GIS data layers on permafrost and infrastructure would represent significant additions to this database. In turn, the TUNDRA project will assist the implementation of the INTAS/RFBR project by providing GIS data layers on topography, soils, etc.

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