The XII International Forum

Arctic: today and the future

December 8-9, 2022, St.Petersburg

Russia proposes to create a federal agency for permafrost


Russia proposes to create a federal agency for permafrost

Russian scientists have proposed creating a federal agency for permafrost under the Russian government. It should have the authority to create an interdepartmental analytical center for monitoring the permafrost zone. A respective appeal was sent to the country's leadership, a copy of the document is available to TASS.

The appeal was signed by a group of permafrost scientists representing the Institute of Permafrost, Institute of Earth Cryosphere of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geoecology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow State University, Moscow State Research Institute and Academy of Sciences of Yakutia.

"Given the scale of the cryolithozone in Russia and the new climatic challenges, the reorganization of the existing departmental systems of cryolithozone monitoring requires the creation of a new management structure and system for financing these works. Such structure could be a federal agency for permafrost under the Government of the Russian Federation, with powers to ensure establishment of interdepartmental monitoring system in the Arctic and Subarctic, integrating networks of various agencies and enterprises, and relevant legislative rights," the petition says.

According to the scientists, it is also necessary to establish a federal interagency analytical center and at least six branches in large towns of the Arctic. According to the document, it is planned to collect information on dangerous cryogenic processes in the natural environment and on the territory of industrial and civil construction on special polygons. "It is necessary to create at least 15 of them in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, from the European North to Chukotka. Only this approach can ensure the development of scientifically substantiated forecasts of the background and geotechnical condition of permafrost for all Arctic regions," experts believe.

Shortage of specialists

The authors of the document draw attention to the shortage of specialists in the study and monitoring of permafrost. According to members of the initiative group, the situation in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation related to the study of permafrost has become critical. Experts believe that this is due to "the lack of a systematic state approach to the problem, due to the reduction of specialized institutes and specialists with specialized education."

"It is important to emphasize that there are not enough geocryologists not only in the executive environment, they are not in the leadership of any department of the Russian Federation. The country, two-thirds of which is occupied by the permafrost zone, deserves to have permafrost specialists on the staff of relevant institutions, but in fact their graduates are being reduced (at Moscow State University), and some university departments have closed (North-Eastern Federal University)", - the text of the appeal reads.

Geotechnical monitoring

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Cabinet to ensure the introduction of amendments to the legislation aimed at creating a state system of monitoring of permafrost. According to the proposal of Alexander Kozlov, head of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the state system will be created on the basis of Roshydromet. Putin also instructed to give this federal service the necessary powers.

However, Mikhail Zheleznyak, director of the Institute of Permafrost of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told TASS on behalf of the initiative committee that Rosgidromet would not be able to provide full monitoring, scientific study and forecasting of permafrost conditions. 

According to the scientist, creating an observation system based on a network of meteorological stations is fundamentally wrong. "This is a partial solution to the issue. Meteorological stations are located in close geomorphological conditions, it is incorrect to assess changes and nature of permafrost based on data from 30-meter wells, as planned," he believes.

Consequences of thawing permafrost

Scientists predict that the increase in temperature of the upper horizons of the permafrost zone, which occupies 65% of the country's territory, will cause the loss of stability of the foundations of buildings and engineering structures. These processes are already occurring intensively: the number of deformed buildings is approaching 40%.

Cryogenic factors have caused 23% of failures of technical systems in the oil and gas industry and 29% of the loss of hydrocarbon production, the report specifies. Potential damage to buildings and structures from melting of permafrost in the Arctic zone of Russia is estimated at 5-7 trillion rubles by 2050, including 700 billion rubles to the housing stock.


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