The German National Science Foundation (DFG) has funded a coordinated group of projects with the title “Sensitivity of Mountain Permafrost to Climate Change – SPCC”, consisting of fi ve collaborating individual projects. The aim is to bridge the gap between climate simulations and the analysis of surface and subsurface characteristics for an assessment of the sensitivity of mountain permafrost dynamics.

The projects include: “Ground-atmosphere modelling: Strategies to combine RCM and subsurface simulations” (C. Hauck, G. Schädler, Ch. Kottmeier - University Karlsruhe); “Quantitative assessment of permafrost degradation using coupled geophysical and thermal monitoring systems” (R. Mäusbacher, C. Hilbich - University Jena); “Spatial assessment of permafrost characteristics and dynamics in alpine periglacial environments” (C. Kneisel - University Würzburg); “Sensitivity of rock permafrost to regional climate change scenarios and implications for rock wall instability” (R. Dikau, M. Krautblatter - University. Bonn) and “Monitoring and process analysis of permafrost creep and failure in changing temperature regimes” (I. Roer - University Bonn). Main field sites include the Zugspitze (Bavarian Alps) and several stations within the PACE and PERMOS networks in Switzerland (e.g. Murtèl/Corvatsch).

At the University of Bonn, the permafrost research group currently monitors three field sites in permafrost rock walls in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to detect permafrost fluctuations and resulting rock wall instabilities. Rock creep and rockfall are investigated with geodesy, extensometers, and laser scanning. Distribution and changes of rock permafrost are assessed at a stability-relevant scale with ERT (electrical resistivity tomography), P and S-wave refraction seismics and IP (induced polarization), and are referenced by temperature measurements (Krautblatter and Hauck 2007, JGR). At the Zugspitze, seasonal permafrost thaw in a steep north face was monitored monthly over the summer 2007 (M. Krautblatter and S. Verleysdonk). The subproject SORP (Sensitivity Of Rock Permafrost to regional climate change scenarios and implications for rock wall instability) based at the University of Bonn, will be supported by M. Moser and J. Rohn from the Engineering Geology Section at the University of Erlangen and by A. Kemna from the Applied Geophysics Section at the University of Bonn.

At the Department of Physical Geography, University of Würzburg, C. Kneisel is continuing surface temperature monitoring in northern Sweden along an altitudinal transect. In the Swiss Alps subsurface temperatures are monitored in the Bever Valley. Here, D. Schwindt has started his Ph.D. thesis on geophysical mapping of the extent of small permafrost lenses and evaluation of the interaction of temperature regime with surface and subsurface factors. Geoelectrical monitoring of permafrost characteristics and active layer thickness is continued in the Muragl glacier forefi eld.

At the University of Giessen, the permafrost research group (led by L. King) continued studies in the Matter and Saas Valleys (Swiss Alps). O. Wild specialized on a new permafrost modelling approach, C. C. Maag studied the impact of global warming and building measurements on rock and ice temperatures at Kleinmatterhorn (3820 m a.s.l.), and L. Bödger-Mayrink focused on glacier hazards due to climate change. The Departments of Geography of Giessen and Zurich are continuing the monitoring and analysis of the PACE-data at the Stockhorn (3410 m a.s.l.).

A Chinese-German joint project investigating the Late- Quaternary landscape development on the northern Tibetan Plateau, China, is in progress at the University of Berlin (B. Wünnemann) , the RWTH Aachen (F. Lehmkuhl, G. Stauch), and the AWI Potsdam (B. Diekmann), in cooperation with the University of Lanzhou, and the CAS in Lanzhou and Nanjing. Research topics comprise lake and permafrost dynamics, glacial and periglacial landforms and processes, and the reconstruction of regional climatic change, inferred from terrestrial and lacustrine sedimentary records. The studies are part of the DFG program “Tibetan Plateau: Formation, Climate, Ecosystems – TiP”.

Polar Activities:

The 11th Russian-German Expedition to the research station Samoylov, Lena Delta, took place from July to October 2008. Long-term methane emission measurements of wet polygonal tundra were continued along with the study of the functional microbial ecology of methane-cycling microorganisms using stable-isotope techniques. The ongoing project is a collaboration between scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) (D. Wagner), the Sukachev’s Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk, the Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, the ETH Zurich, and Hamburg University. The Hamburg University team also performed studies of the N-fluxes in permafrost soils and sediments (E. M. Pfeiff er). Field work on Kurungnakh Island, central Lena Delta, is aimed at understanding the interaction between ice-rich sediments (Yedoma) and morphometry and evolution of lake basins and the related landscape dynamics (A. Morgenstern, M. Ulrich).

An expedition to Seward Peninsula (“East Beringia 2008”) by scientists from the AWI Potsdam, the Senckenberg Research Institute, Weimar, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) followed the NICOP in Fairbanks. Modern tundra vegetation, ostracod associations, sedimentary permafrost sequences including ground ice and electrical resistivity profiling were undertaken near the mouth of the Kitluk River. A second team from the AWI and the UAF (P. P. Overduin, S. Westermann, K. Yoshikawa) studied the near-shore submarine permafrost distribution in the Barrow region by means of Electrical Resistivity Tomography.

In the frame of INTAS-Project “Permafrost dating by cosmogenic 36Cl and 10Be” and IPY Project “Past Permafrost”, the AWI Potsdam (S. Wetterich, L. Schirrmeister) joined the Russian expedition “Beringia” of the IPBPSS Pushchino to the Kolyma River in August 2008. The main aims were to study permafrost sequences along riverbanks and to extract palaeoenvironmental archives and modern ostracod associations and their physico-chemical living conditions. ICDP deep drillings into permafrost and lake sediments of Elgygytgyn Impact Crater, Chukotka, started in autumn 2008 (icdp-online. org). The AWI Potsdam group participated in this drilling project by studying the permafrost history reflected in frozen ground and lake sediments through a multi-proxy approach (sedimentology, mineralogy, ground ice chemical properties, bio-indicators, permafrost borehole geophysical data) (G. Schwamborn, L. Schirrmeister) and with the help of the stable oxygen isotope record from lacustrine diatoms (H. Meyer, B. Chapligin). A new 141.5m deep borehole was drilled in the vicinity of the lake and instrumented with a permanent high temporal resolution temperature logger, which will contribute to the GTN-P network.

AWI continued its collaboration with McGill University, Canada (W. Pollard, N. Couture) with the objective to better understand coastal erosion dynamics of the northern Yukon and associated geochemical fl uxes. AWI also conducted an expedition in August 2008 (H. Lantuit, M. Fritz) to study the palaeoenvironmental history of the Yukon coast and to establish a time frame of the Wisconsin glaciation and ground ice history around Herschel Island.

Within the scope of the Helmholtz Research Alliance “Planetary Evolution and Life”, two new projects started in spring 2008: (1) Physics and Biology of Interfacial Water (D. Wagner), which estimates the role of under-cooled water for the off spring of life in Martian environments. Methanogenic archaea isolated from Siberian permafrost will be used as model organisms in laboratory-based studies. (2) Comparisons of Martian and terrestrial permafrost features (L. Schirrmeister) using morphometric analyses of periglacial structures in key regions on Mars and Earth. The outcome will be based on results from the field campaigns to the Lena Delta in 2008 and to Svalbard in 2009.

The AWI young investigator group SPARC (“Sensitivity of Permafrost in the ARCtic”, J. Boike) focused on field expeditions to maintain ongoing monitoring efforts. It included expeditions to sites in Siberia (Lena Delta) Spitsbergen (Ny-Ålesund), Alaska (Barrow) and Canada (Polar Bear Pass). Measurements comprise meteorological, soil and eddy covariance data, highresolution air photography using balloons, IR thermography imagery, and ERT profiles. Next to these evaporation rates, snow properties and thickness distribution, stream flow, and spatially distributed surface properties were assessed. DEMs and hydrological models of the investigated regions on Spitsbergen and in Siberia are in development.

A new study group on permafrost (Arbeitskreis Permafrost) has been formed within the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Polarforschung (German Society for Polar Research), aimed at scientists from German speaking countries (Germany, Switzerland, Austria). At its first annual meeting at AWI Potsdam in October 2008, a large number of ongoing studies relating to polar and mountain permafrost were presented. Follow-up meetings are planned on an annual basis.

Lorenz King and Clemens C. Maag (lorenz.king@geogr.uni-giessen.de)