Specialists from the Terra Tech company (part of the Russian Space Systems holding of the state corporation Roscosmos) analyzed the dynamics of permafrost processes along the Kolyma section of the federal highway.
Monitoring the state of roads built on permafrost makes it possible to identify possible risk factors and take timely measures to protect the route from deformation.
According to Roskosmos, in 2019, analysts from the Ministry for the Development of the Far East estimated the annual economic damage from thawing permafrost at 50-150 billion rubles. The rate of warming in Russia is 2.5 times higher than the global average, which means that the seasonal thawing of the permafrost will be more pronounced.
Here are the facts. In the permafrost zone of the Russian North, the most important resource regions of the country are located, hundreds of settlements, in which almost three million people live. 65% of the territory of Russia is occupied by permafrost, and this implies special conditions for managing the economy. What does it mean? In particular, in case of technogenic disturbances of the permafrost, the soil thaws and deforms, damaging buildings and communications, therefore careful control of the permafrost is necessary.
Analysts estimate that the permafrost has been melting faster than ever in the past decade. This is due to climate warming and technogenic disturbances of the frozen layer: construction, logging and other impacts violate the thermal and water regime of soils.
Recently, the Russian government supported a bill on permafrost monitoring prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Such an integrated system will be created in Russia for the first time. To ensure the safety of people and industries, a thorough and regular monitoring of the Arctic is necessary. Space photography using remote sensing technologies from Earth makes it possible to assess the state of permafrost over large areas.
Satellite images of sections of the Kolyma highway clearly show examples of thermokarst changes, affecting more than 40% of the total length of the highway.
To identify the dynamics of permafrost processes, data from modern and archival high-resolution satellite images were used. The area between kilometer 179 and kilometer 260 of the Kolyma federal highway was inspected. The length of the road section studied is 81 km.
From the analysis of satellite images, modern thermokarstic processes have been identified: it is the melting of the re-veined ice with the subsequent formation of polygonal soils, the formation of thermokarstic lakes and the formation of their future basins. All these processes are recognized as risk factors for road damage.
Depending on the set of geographical accidents and the degree of their severity, 6 degrees of risk are determined for the route, from very low to very high.