PERMOS, the «Permafrost Monitoring Switzerland» ( reached its last year within the pilot phase.

There are indications that PERMOS will be established within the federal environment monitoring system. The Swiss Academy of Sciences (SAS), the Federal Office for Water and Geology (FOWG) as well as by the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL) are the official partners, which are crucial and supportive for this «docking». MeteoSwitzerland, the federal office for meteorology, will become a new PERMOS partner, with which the link to GCOS/GTOS will be strengthened in the future. PERMOS has been and will be further operated by the eight Swiss university institutes involved in permafrost research.

Initiated by the FOWG, a task force composed on SMEs (Academia Engadina, Getest and Geo7) and a scientific advisory panel published maps (1:50,000) of the entire Swiss Alps where permafrost distribution and potential zones of natural hazards are plotted.

At the University of Zurich, the permafrost distribution modelling for the North-Ossetian Caucasus initiated within the project, «High-Mountain Hazards Prevention, North Ossetia» (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) was finalized. A first-order assessment of the permafrost distribution implies a lower limit of possible permafrost at a mean altitude of 2600 m asl and of probable permafrost at 2980 m asl. The lower limit of permafrost distribution is strongly dependent on aspect and was affirmed in selected locations by the occurrence of active rock glaciers (R. Frauenfelder, S. Zgraggen-Oswald, C. Huggel, A. Kääb, W. Haeberli). The new information primarily concerns debris-covered areas. In the near future, temperature loggers installed in several rock free faces in the area will allow acquisition and more analyses of the temperature distribution in steep rock walls (S. Gruber, R. Frauenfelder, S. Zgraggen-Oswald, C. Huggel, A. Kääb, W. Haeberli).

A new project was initiated, focussing on the investigation of glacier-permafrost interactions and associated features in a transect spanning from the high Arctic on Svalbard over the subarctic area of Northern Norway into the boreal mountain regions of Southern Norway (R. Frauenfelder, funding by the Swiss National Foundation).

The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos continued to investigate the thermal and geotechnical effects of water in the active layer of steep scree slopes. Detailed measurements are collected in the field while numerous shear-box tests are carried out in the laboratory (A. Rist). Three instrumented boreholes (two vertical and one horizontal) are currently being added to the SLF network. These are particularly interesting as they are located in narrow rock ridges and will be used in the context of a new project on the mechanical behaviour of rock walls containing ice. Continuing monitoring of 16 other boreholes located in rock glaciers, scree slopes and under structures such as cable car stations or avalanche defence structures constitutes already a nine-year data set (temperature and deformation) for several of these boreholes, which partly contributes to PERMOS (M. Phillips). The SLF models SNOWPACK and ALPINE- 3D are currently being adapted to simulate permafrost distribution and evolution in complex alpine terrain (M. Lehning and I. Völksch).

The Institutes of Geography at the University of Lausanne (Christophe Lambiel, Emmanuel Reynard) and Fribourg (Reynald Delaloye) carried on their close collaboration in alpine permafrost research in the western Swiss Alps. The focus is on two main aspects:

  • (1) Survey of surface movement of alpine permafrost features (active and inactive rock glaciers, frozen deposits in Little Ice Age glacier forefields, talus slopes) by differential GPS (E. Perruchoud) and photogrammetry (G. Fasel). After a general acceleration between 2000 and 2004, a significant decrease in surface velocities occurred in 2004 and 2005. The satellite based InSAR measurements confirm field observations and showed a kind of «surging rock glaciers» (velocities of about 5 m a-1).
  • (2) Thermal regime and the occurrence of permafrost in talus slopes at low elevation (J. Dorthe, S. Morard) and in the belt of discontinuous alpine permafrost (K. Pieraci). In order to investigate the influence of air circulation on the thermal regime of such talus slopes, drilling and instrumentation of two shallow boreholes (5 and 15 m) were carried out in November 2004 at Combe de Dreveneuse (1550 m asl, Valais Prealps). First results indicate the predominance of a non-conductive thermal regime driven by the complex ventilation system affecting the debris accumulation.

A. Kääb published in 2005 the book «Remote Sensing of Mountain Glaciers and Permafrost Creep» in the Physical Geography Series, University of Zurich (vol. 48, 266 p., ISBN 3 85543 244 9) (See: publications). The PhD thesis of Regula Frauenfelder «Regional-scale modelling of the occurrence and dynamics of rockglaciers and the distribution of palaeopermafrost» was published in the same series (vol. 45, 70 p., ISBN 3 85543 241 4) (For ordering or PDF download:

Dani Vonder Mühll (