Дата публикации: 08 сентября 2018
Автор(ы): S. Pshirkov
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Номер публикации: №1536415377

S. Pshirkov, (c)

by Sergei PSHIRKOV, our staff writer

The year 2002 has been proclaimed by the United Nations the International Year of the Mountains. Bearing in mind that mountain areas account for about one quarter of the surface of our planet, it becomes quite clear that the decision is not only of scientific, but also of socio- humanitarian significance.

Throughout the history these regions of the Earth have been the starting point of many global processes which have been of considerable importance for the well-being of other regions as well. What is more, the economic development of fragile mountainous ecosystems, started by people from time immemorial, remained haphazard for centuries and uncontrolled. As a result, we have soil erosion, frequent avalanches, and shallow rivers. And what not. All that accentuates the importance of a transition to what specialists call rational systems of ecomanagement. The problem also involves major social implications, for one, the impact on the human environment. * As proved by experience, a search for solutions of such problems yields best results if conducted in the areas where such phenomena take place. Particularly, in the mountainous regions.

All of these problems are examined in a new book entitled On the Upper Storeys of the Planet (Na vysotnykh etazhakh planety) published in 1999 by Trovant Publishers of Moscow. Its author is Yuri Suprunenko, Cand. Sc. (Geogr.), researcher of the RAS Institute of Geography and member of the Russian and the American Geographical Societies. His studies took him on many expeditions to various countries - in fact, mountain climbing is his favourite sport. Small wonder he is the author of popular science books on his travel experiences.

Ever since the Stone Age people have been climbing ever higher and higher across the face of this planet and settling in mountainous areas in defiance of religious bans and the harsh, unfriendly environment. But it was not so long ago that they came to realize that in order to pursue economic activities in mountainous areas with maximum effect it is essential to optimize the methods of extraction,

* See: I. Ananyin, "Strong Earthquakes and Biological Anomalies", Science in Russia, No. 1. 2000. - Ed.

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utilization, processing and preservation of the often rich, and even unique, natural resources.

Researchers have identified a range of both limiting and conducive factors in the way of human access to mountainous regions, be it with economic or scientific aims in mind. Man has to reckon with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mud- laden torrents, avalanches and landslides - all of that associated with the enhanced endogenic energy of geological strata in mountainous areas * . Add to that tectonic instability ** , as well as the strained gravitation and meteorological regime *** . But even the favourable and health-improving factors (like those of the famous mountain resorts), if excessive, can become the cause of discomfort and hamper further settlement (what we have in in the mountains, reduced atmospheric pressure, low temperatures, increased levels of solar radiation and ionization). Taking all this into consideration, assessments of the "habit-ability" of any mountainous district should begin with a study of such factors.

Scientists working in this field have been able to determine what they call the altitude intervals of propagation of natural phenomena and processes; they have decoded by and large the physiological mechanism through which the mountain climate influences mountain-dwellers and people in general, and have also assessed the optimal conditions of human habitation in such areas. Safety recommendations have been formulated for mountain-climbers in cases of mountain sickness, frostbites and sunburns. Detailed climate descriptions are

* See: P. Besprozvanny, V. Muravyev, "Attention: Geodynamics!", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1992 . - Ed.

** See: B. Dyakonov, A. Troyanov, "Voices from the Earth's Interior", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1998 . - Ed.

*** See: G . Sobolev, "The Thorny Path to Catastrophe Forecasts", Science in Russia, No. 4, 1994. - Ed.

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available for areas of human settlement. Further studies are needed, however, into the effect of what we call extreme factors of the environment, of permissible altitudes suitable for habitation and adequate capacity for work. We still lack appropriate physiological indicators; our formulas of the climatic impact on the human organism are still empirical and not universal.

But as the author says, the present level of science and technology provides for a new approach to the solution of energy problems at high altitudes and even for "man-made winds" by dint of temperature differentials at different altitudes in the mountains. One can make use of giant wind tunnels with a mighty draft which will be able to power wind turbines; one such tunnel, 10 m in diameter, could generate some 2 MW of electricity The best locations for any such generating stations would be steep slopes, cliffs and canyons. Stretching all the way from the snow-clad mountain tops down into the valleys, such ecologically friendly engineering structures can make an important contribution in catering to the needs of highlanders and valley-dwellers alike. Mount Elbrus, for example, could be turned into a fantastic power-generating center supplying all of the surrounding areas.

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Increased solar radiation and a large number of sunny days up in the mountains make solar energy uses a practical possibility. For example, high in the Pamir mountains the levels of solar radiation are 50 times higher than, let us say, in the Ukraine or in the Northern Caucasus. So a range of different and nonendemic trees and shrubs can be planted there. Experimental solar-heating stations have been built in the Crimea, Georgia, Tajikistan, Daghestan and other areas remarkable for a lot of sunshine. Say, 200 sunny days a year give as much as 5.5-6.5 Gj/m 2 of solar energy, yearly. In other words, one square meter of the earth surface illuminated by the sun receives an annual amount of about 200 kilos of equivalent fuel. On sunny days solar panel collectors accumulate heat and heat up water through heat exchangers by more than 60 0 C.

The settlement of high-mountain districts is likely to stimulate methods of prognostication and assessment since anthropogenic activities often interfere with the natural scheme of things there. In folded areas mountain slopes are especially sensitive in terms of biospheric equilibrium. And in the meantime man is busy inviting future catastrophic phenomena: in fact, his activities can cause a good deal of trouble in an area of enhanced geological or glaciological strains and stresses. Sure enough, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of trouble.

Mountains show much variety of relief, range of heights, climatic conditions and landscapes. And in lurking natural dangers too. This diversity hampers identification of common regularities under similar conditions of economic development. Since many mountainous regions remain unpopulated and undeveloped, any general natural-economic assessment of such areas is problematic. Therefore it would be expedient to try and identify certain types of terrain where economic activities are already in progress or else holding good promise in the future. This kind of classification should cover any problem-prone situations, natural conditions and natural resources. The proposed classification could take in a variety of districts: intermountain troughs, mountain-valley localities, uplands, highlands, summits, eruptive regions, among others. As the author sees it, these are but some preliminary sketches of a more thorough analysis of different options for the economic development of mountainous areas. Global problems need global solutions indeed.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 08 сентября 2018 года

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