Meeting of the AK Permafrost in Bonn/Rolandseck in Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, 2011.
The meeting of the German working group on permafrost hosted the final colloquium of the bundle project “Sensitivity of Permafrost to Climate Change” and more than 30 “Alpine and Arctic” talks by young and established scientists. Activities of the AK Permafrost are organized by Lutz Schirrmeister and Michael Krautblatter.

Reports from Potsdam (AWI, GfZ)
Coordinated by the AWI in Potsdam, the EU project “Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in the 21st Century (PAGE21) was launched In November 2011. This large-scale collaborative project aims to understand and quantify the vulnerability of permafrost environments to a changing global climate and to investigate the feedback mechanisms associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost zones. This 4 year program involves 18 research groups from various European countries.


Two new “Helmholtz Young Investigators Groups” dealing with permafrost research will be supported by the German Helmholtz Association for five years. Hugues Lantuit is leading the project “Coastal Permafrost erosion, organic carbon and nutrient release to the Arctic nearshore zone – COPER” at the AWI in Potsdam and Torsten Sachs will be heading the research group “Trace Gas Exchange in the Earth - Atmosphere System on Multiple Scales (TEAM)" at the GFZ in Potsdam.
In June 2011 the first “Airborne Measurements of Methane” (AIRMETH) campaign was completed by scientists from AWI (Jörg Hartmann) and GFZ (Torsten Sachs). A Los Gatos RMT-200 Fast Methane Analyzer was integrated into the research aircraft “Polar 5” to survey various anthropogenic and natural, terrestrial and offshore targets in Germany, the North Sea, and northern Finland. In combination with turbulence data measured at the Polar 5 nose boom, methane fluxes will be calculated for the primary targets - the large northern Finish wetlands. The campaign served as a test run for AIRMETH-2, for which extensive airborne methane flux measurements over permafrost lowlands between Inuvik and Barrow are planned.

 

 


Preparation of POLAR 5 for airborne methane flux measurements

Within the frame of the Russian-German expedition “Lena Delta 2011” multidisciplinary studies in the Lena River Delta and along the coast of the Laptev Sea in NE Siberia were related to the following topics: Measurements of carbon, energy and water fluxes continued on Samoylov Island as on-going collaboration between the Young Investigator group SPARC (Sensitivity of Permafrost in the ARCtic) and the University of Hamburg. In addition, an 2-stage expedition to the westernmost Laptev Sea (Cape Mamontov Klyk) and to Muostakh Island in Tiksi Bay had three general foci: 1. coastal erosion via combined field surveying and remote sensing, 2. nearshore subsea permafrost studies using geophysical methods, and 3. regional studies of past climate variability and current conditions using small polygonal ponds and late Holocene polygon ice wedges as records. Simultaneous acquisition of high spatial resolution satellite imagery for both sites shows coastal evolution over large regions, while geoelectric and seismic sounding of the sea bottom at sites where drilling records exist, track subsea permafrost degradation following coastal erosion.

 

 


Sampling of late Holocene ice wedge on Muostakh Island (Laptev Sea)


To study the ecological dynamic of polygonal patterned wetlands, field work (Kytalyk 2011) was conducted in the Indigirka lowland around the WWF ecological station at Kytalyk by the German-Russian POLYGON project. Permanent measuring of air, water and ground temperature, soil moisture, water level and conductivity was carried out for six week. In addition a compressive sampling and analytical program was realized concerning flora and fauna living in and around polygons as well as water, soils and frozen ground typical for alas-dominated lowland areas.

 

 


Studies of polygon ponds in the Indigirka Lowland

A summer campaign to the El`gygytgyn Crater lake, NE Russia, was devoted to extract temperature data from a monitoring site in a 141 m deep permafrost borehole. This site has been instrumented after termination of the ICDP permafrost drilling in December 2008. More studies in the crater were focusing on sediment and geomorphic dynamics in the crater basin. This was done in cooperation with Cologne University, Museum for Natural History, Berlin, and AARI, St. Petersburg.
A joint Russian-American-German CALM and TSP expedition was organized by the Earth-Cryosphere Institute (ECI) in late summer to Yamal (Western Siberia). The AWI team measured the bio-physical vegetation parameters at the Greening of the Arctic (GOA) sites in Vaskiny Dachi (VD) and Laboravaya and at the VD CALM site. The team also managed field goniometer measurements of reflectance parameters for the evaluation of satellite data.
The Expedition Yukon Coast 2011 took place in July on Herschel Island (NW Canada). The Expedition was part of the long-term cooperation between the AWI and McGill University (W. Pollard, Montréal). The traditional activities of coastal erosion and palaeogeography studies were expanded to other disciplines. The 2011 expedition included the participation of the University of Bonn (M. Krautblatter, C. Teschner). A weather station and a monitoring flume, already tested in 2010, were installed at the outlet of a retrogressive thaw slump to monitor water and sediment discharge over several weeks in the field. Several resistivity profiles were run in the same slump to study the distribution and characteristics of massive ground ice. At a nearby study site, a tundra polygon was outfitted with a weather station measuring air but also soil temperature, as well as an automatic closed chamber gas sampling device to study the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

News from German universities
Together the AWI Potsdam, two Ph.D. students (Sebastian Zubrzycki and Peter Schreiber) from University of Hamburg conducted a late winter-spring expedition (April to May) to Samoylov Island in the Lena River Delta. Sebastian sampled numerous shallow (1 m) permafrost cores to characterize the quantity and quality of organic carbon in the upper permafrost. Peter focused on an eddy covariance system for measurements of land-atmosphere fluxes of energy, water, CO2, and CH4 during late winter and the snowmelt period. Presently, he is analyzing a unique dataset including a two year-round time series of CO2 fluxes and a long CH4 flux time covering one early (2011) and one late winter (2010) period. In July, the Ph.D. student Julia Antsibor participated in the LENA 2012 expedition sampling various soils in the Lena River Delta as well as in the upland tundra area around Tiksi to study the heavy metal contents in different tundra landscapes.
At the University of Giessen, Stephan Imbery continued his Ph.D. research in the Chinese Central Tianshan on the contribution of permafrost and snow to the water balance under climate change conditions. In cooperation with CAREERI Lanzhou, a dense network of ground temperature‐loggers is used to study the thermal regime of the active layer. Similar studies were carried out in the Kyrgyz Tianshan by Ph.D. student Murataly Duishonakunov in cooperation with the CAIAG Bishkek. Furthermore, the periglacial working group led by Lorenz King installed new temperature‐loggers at the Kleinmatterhorn (3820 m a.s.l.) and continued the long‐term temperature monitoring started inv1998.
At the University of Bayreuth (Department of Ecological Microbiology), ‘Palsa peats’ and cryoturbated peat soils emitting the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide were assessed in the permafrost zone of Finland and Russia. Cryoturbated peat soils were recently identified as ‘hot spots’ of N2O-emissions in arctic tundra. Nitrous oxide is released as an intermediated during denitrification, which is the sequential reduction of nitrate via nitrite and nitrous oxide to molecular nitrogen, part of the N-cycle, and catalyzed by denitrifiers under oxygen limited conditions. K. Palmer and M.A. Horn analyzed the community structure of denitrifiers and their association with nitrous oxide production in such permafrost affected peat soils. N2O emission and production patterns were related to the community structure of denitrifiers. The soils harbored hitherto unknown denitrifiers, necessitating future research on how such organisms might react to global warming.

 

 


Geophysical investigations on the retrogressive thaw slump D (Herschel Island, Arctic Canada) by Hugues Lantuit (AWI Potsdam) and Michael Krautblatter (Uni Bonn).

At the University of Bonn permafrost research is organized in the Group PermaSlope (working group "Permafrost and Slope Failure"). The project “Sensitivity of Rock Permfrost to Climate Change” went to its 3rd and last year with Ph.D. student Sarah Verleysdonk who elaborated a conceptual paper on the Sensitivity Concept in Mountain Permafrost studies (Geografiska Annaler). Ph.D student Daniel Dräbing enhanced laboratory work on the seismic behavior of 20 alpine and arctic metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic rock samples demonstrating significant P-wave velocity increases in frozen rock that allow for seismic monitoring of permafrost in steep bedrock. His work will be continued as a Ph.D student in the new DACH-funded transnational German-Swiss project “Influence of snow cover on thermal and mechanical behavior of permafrost rocks (http://www.geomorphology.uni-bonn.de/research/ispr) supervised by M. Krautblatter (Bonn) and M. Phillips (SLF Davos) and Co-Pis. Ph.D student Daniel Funk continued his work on the rock mechanical behavior of thawing rock samples and is a candidate for the submitted proposal “Temporal and spatial subsurface controls of permafrost-affected rock slope failure.” Postdoc M. Krautblatter participated in the Yukon Coast 2011 expedition to Herschel Island (Arctic Canada)  to investigate  retrogressive thaw slumps and went on field trips to the Japanese Southern Alps and the Fujijama guided by A. Ikeda and N. Matsuoka, partly to take samples for quantitative geophysical investigations.

At the University of Würzburg, the local distribution of permafrost and the ground thermal regime in two glacier forefields (Swiss Alps) is investigated in consideration of surface substrate and snow coverby T. Rödder (PhD). Active layer processes are monitored in detail with an automated geoelectrical monitoringsystem and borehole temperature data. D. Schwindt is finishing his PhD thesis on spatial and temporal permafrost variability regarding ground thermal regime and permafrost-humus interaction in talus slopes below the timberline (Swiss Alps) using geophysical methods and temperature measurements. Two diploma theses use a combined geophysical/photogrammetrical approach. P. Konrad has finished his thesis on geomorphological activity of different subarctic landforms (Sweden).Recent permafrost occurrence was identifiedas the most influential factor regarding modification of landscape as opposed to slope, exposition, elevation or incoming summer short wave radiation. J. Kästl currently investigates alpine permafrost dynamics in the Swiss Alps.

Lutz Schirrmeister (Lutz.Schirrmeister@awi.de) and Michael Krautblatter (michael.krautblatter@giub.uni-bonn.de)