Current permafrost related research activities in Austria are carried out by an increasing number of institutions; University of Innsbruck, Vienna University of Technology, two universities in Graz (University of Graz and Graz University of Technology), University of Salzburg, Joanneum Research (Graz), Geological Survey of Austria (GBA, Vienna) and Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG, Vienna and Salzburg).
The Innsbruck group (K. Krainer) started in summer 2007 a four-year project entitled Permafrost in Austria, funded by the Austrian Academy of Science. The project is divided into two parts including cooperation with the University of Vienna (E. Brückl, H. Hausmann and G. Blöschl), with the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, Salzburg (M. Staudinger) and with the Geological Survey of Austria (A. Römer). The main objective of Part I, study area Weißsee peak, Kaunertal, Ötztal Alps, is to provide data on the present distribution alpine permafrost in unconsolidated sediments and to understand its influence on the hydrological regime under the aspect of climate change by applying various geophysical methods, by the development of numerical runoff models, and by integrating cross-disciplinary information from geology and hydrology, geophysics, and meteorology. Part II deals with degrading permafrost in rock mass at the Sonnblick observatory (3106 m asl), Goldberg Mountains. As reported in the previous issue of Frozen Ground, three 20 m and one 10 m boreholes were drilled in September 2005 along a sloping northsouth profile. Continuous monitoring of temperature data at the 20 m boreholes (25 temperature sensors at each borehole; no published data yet) is carried out since August 2006. At these three boreholes seismic tomography will be applied. In addition, GPR, equipped with transmitters of various frequencies (20-500 MHz), will be tested. In combination with seismic tomography, as well as DC-resistivity, the data might yield information on fissures of the rock mass and their changing fill with ice, water or air.
The University of Graz (G.K. Lieb and A. Kellerer- Pirklbauer); Graz University of Technology (M. Avian and V. Kaufmann); Joanneum Research (A. Bauer and H. Proske) are primarily working on objectives defined within the project ALPCHANGE, which started in June 2006, and is supported by the Austrian Science Fund. During the first project year, equipment (e.g. temperature data loggers, remote digital cameras, meteorological stations) was installed at six high-altitude study locations in the Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern Ranges in central Austria, providing continuous logging of meteorological data as well as climate-change influenced processes (e.g. snow cover and slope stability monitoring by remote digital cameras). Additional ALPCHANGErelated research is: continuation of the annual geodetic measurements on the Doesen, Hinteres Langtalkar and Weissenkar rock glaciers; resurveying of the front of the highly active Hinteres Langtalkar rock glacier by terrestrial laser scanning; geomorphic field mapping, sampling and BTS measurements at various study locations in the Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern Ranges. Some results of this ongoing project can be accessed at (www.alpchange. at).
Permafrost related observations (e.g. rock glacier mapping) were carried out within the framework of the project A tale of two valleys () by Joanneum Research (H. Proske), thereby focusing on the mountain areas north and south of the previously mentioned Sonnblick observatory. The Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics started a permafrost monitoring programme in Sonnblick region entitled PERSON (Permafrost monitoring Sonnblick) with two test fields (one with southern and one with northern aspect) of ground surface temperature measurements using temperature loggers and additional BTS measurements in March and April each year. This monitoring will be improved by a digital snow cover and snow depletion mapping, which are planned to start in winter 2007/08. Additionally, a detailed permafrostmodelling based on the PERMAKART and PERMAMAP approaches was performed for the Sonnblick region within the framework of a diploma thesis. An extension of the ground surface temperature network is planned for 2008.
The Salzburg group (L. Schrott) is currently initiating permafrost-related research projects in the European Alps and the Argentinean Andes. These activities are carried out within the newly established Research Group on Geomorphology and Environmental Systems (www. geomorphology.at). A MSc thesis on mountain permafrost modelling in the Austrian Alps was carried out by B. Ebohon using previously published and compiled data and the programmes PERMAKART (for steep slopes) and PERM (for footslope-positions). The results show that the simulated map still needs some improvement on a larger scale, but it can provide a good general overview of the possible and probable permafrost distribution of the Austrian Alps.
During the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, in April 2007, a number of the above mentioned researchers participated in an informal meeting led by A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer (University of Graz). The main outcome of this meeting was the strong intention of joining forces to coordinate permafrost research in Austria. The project initiated by K. Krainer (Permafrost in Austria) can be regarded as a first achievement in this direction.
The Austrian Commission on Geomorphology changed it name to the Austrian Research Association on Geomorphology and Environmental Change (). This association, which is part of the Austrian Geographical Society and the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) Working Group on Geomorphology and Global Environmental Change, organised a conference focussing on the topic Geomorphology for the Future at the University Centre of Obergurgl in September 2007. The conference was organised by M. Keiler (University of Vienna), A. Kellerer- Pirklbauer (University of Graz), C. Embleton-Hamann (University of Vienna) and J. Stötter (University of Innsbruck). 40 scientists from 11 countries participated with oral and poster presentations, and two field excursions were held. Key topics addressed during the poster and oral presentations were permafrost and its spatial distribution, rock glacier creep, permafrost degradation and its influence on debris flow activity.
Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer and Gerhard Karl Lieb (email@example.com)