Russia — MSU Completes Electronic Atlas of the Arctic

  • The unique atlas includes an overview of the regional maps, analytical and photographic materials, which illustrate the spread of the dangerous processes in the Arctic.
  • The retreat of the coast is affected by both abrasion under the action of waves and the destruction, which is a result of thawing of the soil and underground ice.
  • This information is necessary both at the level of making strategic investment decisions and for organizing the educational process for students and postgraduates.

Russian geographers from Moscow State University completed work on the beta version of the Electronic Atlas of abrasion and ice extraction hazards of the coastal shelf zone of the Russian Arctic. The unique atlas includes an overview of the regional maps, analytical and photographic materials, which illustrate the spread of the dangerous processes in the Arctic.

Moscow State University (MSU) is a coeducational and public research university located in Moscow, Russia. It was founded on 23 January 1755 by Mikhail Lomonosov.

The processes are the abrasion and ice extraction. The most intensively retreating coasts in the Russian Arctic are those located in the permafrost development area. They are subject to thermal abrasion— the destruction of the coast and underwater slope, composed of permafrost dispersed rocks.

At the same time, the retreat of the coast is affected by both abrasion under the action of waves and the destruction, which is a result of thawing of the soil and underground ice. The abrasion is the process of destruction of the coast and underwater slope under the mechanical influence of waves.

In the Russian Arctic, where most of the coast is located in the permafrost zone (cryolithozone), the sea coasts are composed of frozen icy soils. In addition to the mechanical wave abrasion, thermal abrasion is also distinguished. The thermal abrasion includes the thawing of soils as a result of contact with water and air.

During the dynamically active period of the year, when the water area is freed from ice, such banks can collapse at a rate of 5 to 8 feet per year. In recent decades, against the background of climate warming and reduced ice cover, these speeds have increased in places to 7 to 9 feet per year. Therefore, it also contributes to climate change.

At present, a new stage is beginning with the development of the remote deposits on the coast and shelf of the Arctic seas is beginning. The scale of development of abrasive and ice-extraction processes can significantly complicate the conditions for the construction and the operation of the various structures, both on the coast and on the shelf.

These include the oil storage terminals, drilling and production platforms, underwater pipelines, ports, and other industrial and residential infrastructure. Thus, the underwater pipeline or communication cable that passes through the coastline and is exposed, and as a result of abrasion, is very likely to be exposed to sea ice and will be damaged. Besides climate change and species extinction, there is also a threat to humanity.

Furthermore, the atlas provides lament explanation and description of the Arctic changes. The new atlas descriptions and examples of the main types of banks are given, as well as diagrams illustrating the features of the structure of the ice cover in the coastal zone. Additionally, a series of survey maps describe the main factors that determine the nature and distribution of abrasion and extraction processes in the seas of the Russian Arctic.

The map of the litho-geomorphological structure of the coast shows the morphology of the coast and its constituent rocks. The map of the geocryological structure of the coast and shelf shows the distribution of permafrost, the type and ice content of soils, the area of permafrost distribution on the shelf, as well as modern glaciers.

The map of changes in relative sea level and vertical movements of the earth’s crust reflects the average rate of rise or fall of the relative sea level of the Russian Arctic in the Holocene Period (i.e., the last 10,000 years). Maps of seasonal ice buildup and melting show the average position of 15% of the sea ice concentration in monthly increments.

The Extreme North or Far North is a large part of Russia located mainly north of the Arctic Circle and boasting enormous mineral and natural resources. Its total area is about 5,500,000 square kilometers (2,100,000 sq mi), comprising about one-third of Russia’s total area.

Moreover, there are maps of the structure of the ice cover during its maximum distribution, averaged for the period before (1979-1999) and during (2005-2018) global warming, show that the structure and area occupied by different types of ice has changed significantly as a result of climate warming.

Such changes lead to a shift in the zones of the most intense impact of ice formations on the bottom. In fact, the maps themselves illustrate the development of  the abrasion and ice-extraction processes.

There are Three Detail Levels:

  1. An overview-for the entire coast of the Russian Arctic.
  2. The regional separate areas of the each of the seas.
  3. MSU scientists specially selected key areas of oil and gas development.

The overview map allows you to see the general patterns of dangerous exogenous processes in the coastal shelf zone of the entire Russian Arctic.

Regional maps of the Atlas can serve as a source of basic knowledge and information about the types of sea coasts and their destruction rates, the extent and types of impacts of ice cover on the bottom. This information is necessary both at the level of making strategic investment decisions on the development of large deposits and regions, and for organizing the educational process for students and postgraduates.

The atlas can be used as a useful tool pertaining to the dangers of climate change.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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