During the past year the Italian scientific community was mainly concentrated on research in the Alps as a major financial reduction of the Antarctic funding did not allow any scientific fieldwork. Only permafrost, active layer and ice-wedge monitoring was continued in the Antarctic. In the Alps, several investigations were conducted by different research teams with the support of national, local and European funds.

In particular, a multidisciplinary work on the Schiantala rock glacier (Western Alps), with geomorphological and geophysical methods combined with analyses of ice structure and fabric, along with age control, were used to understand the genesis of landforms in an environment, where glaciers and permafrost interact. The results show that in rock glaciers developed in recently deglaciated areas, i.e. those occupied by LIA glaciers, sedimentary and congelation ice can coexist, and that the existence of pre-existing permafrost influenced by glacier advance must be taken into account.

Also the research on the Foscagno rock glacier (Central Italian Alps) continued with the isotopic analysis of the ice cores obtained some years ago, supported by 14C ages achieved by dating some leaves embedded in the ice. In addition, a new campaign of electrical tomography was carried out by Insubria and Pisa University research groups, to compare these new data with the DC resistivity soundings and electrical tomographies carried out 15 and 5 years ago and thus to detect possible modifications of the active layer and permafrost in response to climate change. N. Cannone and M. Guglielmin suggested the possible influence of permafrost degradation on the unexpected vegetation regression above 2,600 m asl in the Stelvio area. Also the permafrost monitoring programme continued in Upper Valtellina, both within the Foscagno rock glacier and Stelvio borehole. In addition a snow-permafrostvegetation monitoring on a grid site (51 test points in an area of 0.4 km2) was established by a joint effort of Ferrara University (N. Cannone), Insubria University (M. Guglielmin), and Bicocca University (S. Sgorbati). The Pisa group started research on the geographic and morphometric characteristics of the block fields in the Argentera Massif (Western Alps). Moreover, in a site (Rocca dell’Abisso), the temperature at different depths was recorded hourly on differently orientated slopes of the same block field.

R. Seppi and A. Carton (Univ. Pavia and Padova, respectively) continued their monitoring of rock glaciers dynamics and regimes of water springs. Milano University (M. Pelfini) and Insubria University (M. Guglielmin) in summer 2007 started a project which analyses permafrost and water circulation in a bedrock slope. All these investigations have been supported by the funded PRIN 2006-07 project Disintegration of Alpine glaciers and dynamics of deglaciated areas in the Maritime and Central Alps.

An important INTERREG European project named ‘PERMAdataROC’, partially developed by the Italian community, started in March 2006 and will end in March 2008. From Italy Fondazione Montagna Sicura, ARPA Valle d’Aosta (Operational Area - Climatic Changes) and CNR-IRPI of Turin participates. This project tests new methods to monitor the thermal regimes of rockwalls in high mountain areas affected by gravitational movements, and creates a database. Actually PERMAdataROC project is investigating two western Alpine areas, the Mont Blanc massif and the Matterhorn, through 

  • creation of a database of rockfalls occurring on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif at elevation greater than 2000 m asl (the database will be updated by Alpine Guides, who are specifically trained to fill a survey form describing expected future events),
  • monitoring the thermal regime of the rock faces of seven sites (with a total of 28 loggers installed) at the depth of 3, 30 and 55 cm. In addition climatic conditions are monitored measuring air humidity and temperature, net radiation and wind direction on the two mountains,
  • monitoring of the morphological activity of rockwalls with frequently repeated surveys (LIDAR) and terrestrial photogrammetry.

The national summer field trip of the Italian Geomorphologist Association (AIGEO) was organized by M. Guglielmin (Insubria University) and N. Cannone (Ferrara University) visiting the Foscagno and Stelvio sites. At the same meeting the past IPA President H.M. French presented a lecture on the changes of the periglacial geomorphology in the last century. The meeting was sponsored by Insubria University and Micros+Siap srl.

Mauro Guglielmin (mauro.guglielmin@uninsubria.it)