Part 3—Use Google Earth to Locate Chersky, Russia and Explore Permafrost

Step 1 Locate Chersky and Explore Images of the Region

Chersky, a small hamlet in the Siberian Arctic, is the location of several important permafrost and ecology research projects. In the Case Study you learned a little about this unique town. Next, you will use Google Earth to locate the town and view images of the area.

  1. If necessary, launch Google Earth and open the Permafrost_EET.kmz file. In the How Permanent is Permafrost? folder deselect (uncheck) layers so that only the Introduction layer is turned on.
  2. In the How Permanent is Permafrost? folder, located in the Places panel, click the check box next to Introduction to turn it on. Then click the word, Introduction. This will open a window that presents an overview of this activity. After you have read the information in the Introduction window, close the window by clicking the small "x" in the upper left-hand corner of the window.
    1. Click the Introduction layer in the Places panel.
      click introduction
    2. The Introduction window will open.
      intro window open

    Navigation controls in Google Earth
  3. Next, in the Places panel, click the check box next to Chersky, Russia to locate Chersky on the globe. On the globe, double click on the Chersky placemark symbol, a small blue triangle, to zoom in, and keep zooming in to see Chersky's location at the mouth of the Kolyna River, where it flows into the East Siberian Sea.
  4. When you zoom in far enough, small blue and yellow squares will appear on your globe. These indicate photos and other information that is available about this location. Hint: In order to see the photos, make sure that the Photos box is checked (turned on) in the Layers panel.
  5. If you click on the small blue square markers on the globe you can see photographs taken around Chersky; note that location names are generally in Russian.
    1. The blue squares are photo links. Click on them to open the linked photo. Notice that in the Layers panel the Photos, Places, and Roads layers are turned on. If you are having trouble finding these squares, make sure that these layers are on.
      zoomed to Chersky more
    2. This is an example of a photo of Chersky.
      photo link open

    While viewing photos, consider the following questions:
    • Is this the kind of landscape you would expect to see in the Siberian Arctic?
    • Describe the terrain, cloud cover, and other geographic features that you see.
  6. Zoom back out until you can see the whole peninsula on which Chersky is located, between the Bering Sea and the East Siberian Sea.

  7. zoomed to peninsula level

Step 2 Locate the Permafrost Borehole Locations

  1. In the Places panel, check the box next to the folder labeled Borehole Locations. Five borehole locations will be indicated on the map by snowflake placemarks. On the globe, click on a snowflake (placemark). A window of information opens that indicates the latitude and longitude of the borehole, and has a link to the "Borehole dataset" on the NSIDC Website.

  2. boreholes on
  3. Open each of the five borehole locations and read the data associated with the location. Note the name of the borehole as well as the Latitude and Longitude on a piece of paper or in an electronic journal.
  4. Zoom in to see the terrain and other features in each of these locations.
  5. Use the Ruler tool ruler tool to get a sense of how far it is from Chersky to Isit'.
    1. Click on the tool to select it.
      select ruler
    2. Use the drop-down menu to set the Length unit to Kilometers. Then, click on the globe to start measuring. Drag a line between the points you are interested in measuring, in this case Chersky to Isit'. The distance between these points is approximately 1,875 kilometers.
      measure from Chersky to isit

Step 3 Investigate Permafrost Types

  1. Leaving the placemarks for Chersky and the Borehole Locations on, turn on the Permafrost Map layer. This overlay shows the distribution of permafrost over northern Russia and the rest of the Arctic. Zoom out to see more of the region.

  2. zoomed to region

  3. With the map key and the description text below as your guide, what types of permafrost are found in this region of the world? List all the types within a 1,000 km radius of Chersky. Use the Ruler tool to measure the distance to each type.
  4. Types of Permafrost
    Subsea PermafrostThis permafrost was formed more than 11,000 years ago, during the last ice age. During that era, more of Earth's water was stored as ice on land causing sea level to be lower than it is today. Therefore, more land was exposed, and some of it froze into permafrost. When the ice age ended, the seas rose again. As the sea level rose, the oceans covered up these areas of permafrost. Today, some of the sea floor is frozen up to 100 meters (328 feet) thick under the bottom of the ocean. Subsea Permafrost only exists in the Arctic Ocean.

    Relict PermafrostThis is a type of permafrost existing in areas where permafrost cannot form under present climatic conditions; it reflects past climatic conditions that were colder.

    Continuous PermafrostThis area is where permafrost covers greater than 90 percent of the land surface.

    Discontinuous PermafrostThis area is where permafrost covers between 50 and 90 percent of the land surface.

    Sporadic PermafrostThis area is where permafrost covers between 10 and 50 percent of the land surface.

    Isolated PermafrostThis area is where permafrost covers less than 10 percent of the land surface.

    Text adapted from:
  5. How far away is the Relict Permafrost from Chersky?
    The relict permafrost is approximately 3,500 kilometers away from Chersky.
    measure to relict p
  6. What kind of permafrost underlies Chersky and the nearby borehole sites? Which borehole site data might be most like what you would find in the Chersky area? Which is the least similar?
    Continous Permafrost is under Chersky and most of the boreholes. Isit' is in Isolated or Discontinuous Permafrost.
  7. Select View > Grid in order to add the lines of Latitude and Longitude to your map view. Explore the relationship between permafrost location and the Arctic Circle.
  8. When you are done exploring, turn off the Permafrost Map layer.
  9. If this is the end of your session, quit Google Earth. It is not necessary to save any changes that you made to your "Temporary Places" folder. If you plan to continue to the next part, leave Google Earth running.

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