The Permafrost Coordinating Group of the Swiss Academy of Sciences met on 29 April 1996 at VAW-ETH in Zurich.
During the first part of the meeting, the new technology of miniature temperature data loggers was discussed. In fall 1994, the geomorphology group of the Geography Department at the University of Bern had developed such miniature miniature data loggers with a programmable time interval and especially designed for alpine permafrost conditions. These miniature temperature data loggers open new possibilities for monitoring programs and other research projects. Bernhard Krummenacher (University of Bern) carried out a demonstration experiment, described the technical aspects involved, introduced the program for tuning the loggers, and showed first results from field measurements. Martin Hoelzle and This Wegmann (VAW-ETH Zurich) also reported first experiences and results obtained in the area of the Murttl-Corvatsch rock glacier. The bottom temperature of the snow cover (BTS) was monitored continuously during the winter 1994/1995. Significant differences were observed on the rock glacier (ridge and furrow), in front of it, and beneath and outside a nearby ski run.
In a second part of the meeting, 14 presentations provided an overview of ongoing research projects in Switzerland. The University of Bern group (B. Krummenacher, K. Budmiger, B. Blank and D. Mihajlovic) reviewed their activities near the Gemmi Pass during the last 8 years: year-round temperature measurements in the soil and snow cover, solifluction observation and photogrammetric investigation of the Furggendti rock glacier with displacement rates of up to 5 m/a. Using an automatic camera which takes a daily photograph, the pictures were rectified, registered and assembled in a video sequence which shows the melting pattern of the snow in springtime. The relation between permafrost occurrence and snow distribution patterns is being investigated by M. Imhof (Ph.D. dissertation).
Activities at the University of Lausanne (M. Phillips, E. Reynard and L. Wenker) consist of geomorphological mapping of periglacial environments using aerial photographs in combination with the BTS method. The distribution of mountain permafrost is being modeled using several programs, and the results compared with those from other alpine regions.
The distribution of permafrost is also being modeled at the University of Fribourg (M. Monbaron, R. Lugon, J.-M. Gardaz, S. Morand, R. Delaloye) using rock glaciers as an indicator of permafrost conditions. The inventory of rock glaciers obtained from aerial photographs and field visits includes more than 300 rock glaciers. In addition, meteorological, geophysical and runoff measurements have been performed over the past ten years.
F. Keller (ETH Zentrum) has compiled a new map modeling the permafrost distribution of Switzerland using the program PERMAKART. Glacierized areas (about 1300 km²) and areas occupied by periglacial permafrost (roughly 2000 km²) cover about 8% of the entire country.
Investigations of the reaction to construction activities at Jungfraujoch were presented by H.-R. Keusen (GEOTEST).
The group at VAW-ETH Zurich presented three different projects. Temperature and deformation measurements in the undisturbed part of Jungfraujoch have been completed by numerical finite element models to investigate the stability of rock walls with permafrost within a changing climate (T. Wegmann). Photogrammetric investigations of Gruben rock glacier were performed for the time interval 1970-1991. Elevation changes, surface velocities, strain rates and changes at the rock glacier front were presented (A. Kaab). In addition, first results from high-frequency georadar investigations on Murttl-Corvatsch rock glacier and comparisons with the existing borehole information were reported (P. Huggenberger, D. Vonder Muhll).
Information about the small fragment of moss containing pollen which was encountered in the core during drilling through the Murttl-Comatsch rock glacier was discussed: the botanical (J.-N. Haas, University of Basel) and 14C investigations (D. Wagenbach, University of Heidelberg) led to an age of about 2000 years BP, which corresponds well with the rough estimations concerning the Holocene evolution of the rock glacier (W. Haeberli, University of Zurich).
Chr. Döbeli (University of Basel) reported on ecological studies in the Liefdefjorden area (Spitsbergen), investigating temperatures, radiation, flowering time and nutrients at several test sites.
The meeting closed with an overview by W. Haeberli on permafrost monitoring programs in various mountain regions of the world.
In January, Wilfried Haeberli was appointed president of the section on Geography and Environment of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, and consequently stepped down as the leader of the Permafrost Coordinating Group. Daniel Vonder Miihll was appointed as the new leader of the group. In addition, two working groups were established, one to define standards with respect to large-scale, long-term experiments using miniature temperature data loggers in the Alps, and the other to compare and compile the various existing inventories on rock glaciers and permafrost sites.
Submitted by D. Vonder Muhll and W. Haeberli (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)