The International Polar Year has provided the framework for a strong development of permafrost science in Portugal and in 2008 signifi cant developments have been achieved:

  • collaboration between permafrost research groups in the framework of the IPA
  • implementation of the PERMANTAR project (National Polar Program - ProPolar)
  • Permafrost research in the Maritime Antarctic
  • Permafrost research in Arctic Canada
  • Research on the polygonal patterns of Mars
  • Education and Outreach
  • full membership at the IPA.

The dynamics created by the IPY enabled contacts between diff erent groups conducting permafrost research and their organization in the framework of IPA-Portugal. Permafrost research groups have been identified at: University of Lisbon (CEG – Monitoring, mapping, modeling, climate and CEGUL – Geophysics, climate modeling); University of Évora (CGE – ground heat fl ux, geophysics); IPIMAR (Chemistry, contaminants); and Technical University of Lisbon (CERENA - Polygonal networks in Mars).

The implementation of the National Polar Program took place in early 2008 with the funding of fi ve projects, one of which on permafrost research. The project PERMANTAR – Permafrost and Climate Change in the Maritime Antarctic, lead by Gonçalo Vieira, University of Lisbon, involves an international partnership with the Universities of Évora (Portugal), Alcalá de Henares (Spain), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Valladolid (Spain), Autonomous of Madrid (Spain), Zurich (Switzerland) and Karlsruhe (Germany), as well as with the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute. Th e projects focus on the implementation of a network of permafrost monitoring boreholes, CALM-S sites and geomorphological monitoring sites in Livingston and Deception Islands (Maritime Antarctic). An eff ort is also being conducted on the downscaling of mesoscale climate data (i.e. ERA-40, ERA-interim) and modeling (HTESSEL) of ground temperatures for comparison with borehole data in the South Shetlands. The project runs from March 2008 to March 2010 and is a partner of the Spanish funded PERMAMODEL project. PERMANTAR is included in ANTPAS and TSP.

In January and February 2008 the PERMADRILL (Portugal) - PERMAMODEL (Spain) projects lead by the Universities of Lisbon and Alcalá combined eff orts for a large campaign on Livingston and Deception Islands. The Spanish, Bulgarian and Argentinean Antarctic programs were involved. Several longterm monitoring boreholes were installed in Livingston Island: Gulbenkian-Permamode (l1-25m), Gulbenkian-Permamode (l2-15m), Ohridski1 (6m) and Papagalo (5m). In Deception Island field work focused on geophysical surveying (ERT) of permafrost distribution, geomorphological mapping and maintenance of the CALM-S site at Crater Lake. A new 20- 30m borehole at Crater Lake is being planned for early 2009 in collaboration with David Gilichinsky, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Arctic Canada: The research by the IPIMAR team focused on thermokarst lakes and on releases of carbon dioxide and methane gases. The role of the thawing permafrost in the trace element contaminants cycle was also of special interest due to the possible impact on the Arctic food web. IPIMAR research on permafrost focused in Northern Québec. A campaign was conducted in April 2008 in the region of Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik, with the coordination of Laurier Poissant, Environment Canada. Samples of snow, ice, water and sediments were collected in diverse aquatic and land systems such as Great Whale River, Hudson Bay and a thermokarst lake in a palsa peatland near Kuujjuarapik. Samples have been analyzed for carbon, nutrients and trace element contents. Measurements of carbon dioxide, methane and mercury gases were also made in the snow pack and permafrost. The analytical work is still in progress, but the first results indicate that the impact of permafrost thawing in the global geochemical cycles could have been underestimated.

Mars polygonal patterns: The CERENA team at Instituto Superior Técnico began a project for the automated mapping and characterization of polygonal networks on the surface of Mars, with the aim of identifying those that are of periglacial origin. During 2008, its activities included a survey of high spatial resolution images (better than 6 meters/pixel) acquired between 1998 and 2006 by NASA Mars Global Surveyor, whose centers were located above 50º of latitude (north and south). Almost 16,000 images were scrutinized, and more than 1000 polygonal networks detected; of those, however, less than 200 were deemed acceptable for the application of an automated procedure. The use of an automated method for this analysis is fully justified by the number of polygons in each network that can reach the thousands. The mapping phase consists of the segmentation of the network based on image analysis techniques. Although there are some developments yet to be implemented, the early results were good enough to advance into the characterization of the networks. This is done by the extraction of geometric and topological parameters from the identified polygons. The aim is to establish a classifi cation scheme for the networks that could be related to their origin and dynamics. A comparative analysis with terrestrial analogues, for which field data can be obtained is planned and will surely lead to a much better understanding of this type of features.

The IPY Education and Outreach project LATITUDE60!, Coordinated by the universities of Lisbon and Algarve, included several activities relating to permafrost: lectures in schools and institutes, display of the Antarctic permafrost research film (“+ a Sul”), preparation of a new film on permafrost research, international videoconferences (IGLO), weekends with polar scientists in the mountains, publication of brochures in national newspaper, collaboration with writers with the inclusion of Antarctic permafrost research in a volume from a best-seller adventure book collection for kids, collectors agenda of the national post company with permafrost themes included weekend of polar science with ca. 7,000 visitors, visit to Svalbard with journalists with an emphasis on TSP-Norway program, and appearances on radio and TV broadcasts. The E&O program has been a major success and has also contributed to the public understanding of the importance of implementing the National Polar Program. Weekend with polar scientists in the Portuguese mountains. Project LATITUDE60! (Photo provided by the project LATITUDE60!)

Following the strengthening of Portuguese permafrost research in the past decade, Portugal membership at the IPA has been upgraded from Associate to Full member, following a proposal by the Centre for Geographical Studies of the University of Lisbon that is the National Adhering Body to the Association.

Gonçalo Vieira, João Canário, Marta Nogueira and Pedro Pina (