Prospects of Establishing Joint Permafrost Research Sites in Russia and China



According to Mikhail Zheleznyak, Director of the Institute of Permafrost Science of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian and Chinese scientists have already implemented eight joint projects in this area. The expert also stated that the establishment of Russian-Chinese research sites will expand scientific knowledge for adaptation to permafrost thawing.

"In China, permafrost is present in three regions: the northeast, northwest, and the Tibetan Plateau. In my opinion, we need to create comprehensive joint testing grounds in these areas. And we have every opportunity to create world-class centers together with our Chinese colleagues," Zheleznyak said.

According to him, permafrost research with China has been conducted since the 1970s. "Soviet permafrost scientists conducted many joint experiments, in many ways, they «taught» their Chinese colleagues, raised the level of research in the field of geocryology. And when I was in China in 2018, I was surprised at how much our Chinese colleagues are, let's put it this way, good students. And now world-class research is being conducted there," the expert noted.

China has all the necessary equipment and instruments for permafrost engineering, he said.

Joint research

In 2018, the International Research Center was opened on the basis of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch of the RAS (MPI SB RAS) and the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering of the PRC. This laboratory is China's leading institution in permafrost research and is part of the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Over the years, despite the coronavirus, we have implemented eight joint projects. Investments in all projects from the Chinese side amounted to almost 100 million rubles. During this period, 26 employees of our institute worked in Tibet in joint expeditions, and 28 Chinese colleagues participated in our expeditions in the Anabar ulus (far north-west of Yakutia), in Southern Yakutia, in Transbaikalia," Zheleznyak said.

According to the expert, it is necessary to jointly study approaches to ensuring the safety of hydraulic structures, roads and railroads.

Damage from permafrost thawing

Photo: Alex Treadway / ICIMOD / Reuters

Earlier, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic (Minvostokrazvitiya) stated that the damage from melting permafrost in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation may reach up to 7 trillion rubles by 2050. According to the agency, permafrost degradation causes 29% of losses in oil and gas production, which also causes problems with highways, while most gas-bearing layers are located in Russia's cryolithozone.

The Chinese authorities have already expressed interest in a joint study of ice melting, as these processes in the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica and the sea ice loss in the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush share common features, consequences and problems. The melting of glaciers in the Hindu Kush mountain system in the Himalayas alone poses a threat to the areas where some 2 billion people live in nearby Asian countries. It could shrink the permafrost zone, increase the risk of landslides and floods, and potentially reduce freshwater supplies.



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