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Mountain permafrost: development and challenges of a young research field

  • Wilfried Haeberli (a1), Jeannette Noetzli (a1), Lukas Arenson (a2), Reynald Delaloye (a3), Isabelle Gärtner-Roer (a1), Stephan Gruber (a1), Ketil Isaksen (a4), Christof Kneisel (a5), Michael Krautblatter (a6) and Marcia Phillips (a7)...

Abstract

An overview is given of the relatively short history, important issues and primary challenges of research on permafrost in cold mountain regions. The systematic application of diverse approaches and technologies contributes to a rapidly growing knowledge base about the existence, characteristics and evolution in time of perennially frozen ground at high altitudes and on steep slopes. These approaches and technologies include (1) drilling, borehole measurement, geophysical sounding, photogrammetry, laser altimetry, GPS/SAR surveying, and miniature temperature data logging in remote areas that are often difficult to access, (2) laboratory investigations (e.g. rheology and stability of ice-rock mixtures), (3) analyses of digital terrain information, (4) numerical simulations (e.g. subsurface thermal conditions under complex topography) and (5) spatial models (e.g. distribution of permafrost where surface and microclimatic conditions are highly variable spatially). A sound knowledge base and improved understanding of governing processes are urgently needed to deal effectively with the consequences of climate change on the evolution of mountain landscapes and, especially, of steep mountain slope hazards as the stabilizing permafrost warms and degrades. Interactions between glaciers and permafrost in cold mountain regions have so far received comparatively little attention and need more systematic investigation.

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References

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