Spanish research groups working on cryosphere subjects have continued working at different places of Iberian Peninsula, Andean high mountains and Polar Regions. Studies have focused mainly on mountain permafrost degradation, periglacial and nival processes and landforms and their spatial distribution, collaborating with International groups of USA, UK, Portugal, Japan, New Zealand, Argentine, Perú, Brazil, Mexico, France and Switzerland. Several group presented his works on periglacial and permafrost subjects in the III IPA-Iberian Meeting, where it was possible to see the state of the research on periglacial and permafrost made by Spanish groups.
From 21 to 24 June took place the III IPA-Iberian Meeting, organized by the Department of Geography (University of Santiago de Compostela) and coordinate by the Spanish and Portuguese IPA groups, in Piornedo (Galicia, Spain). The Meeting included 4 lectures, 17 oral and 13 poster presentations in four sessions. At the meeting 35 Spanish and Portuguese scientists participated. Abstracts of presentations have been published in the proceeding “Criosfera, suelos congelados y cambio climático”, edited by the University of Santiago de Compostela. Sessions on “Present day dynamics in periglacial and nival mountain environments”, “Quaternary periglacial environments and chronologies”, Research in Antarctica” and “Permafrost as Planetary cryospheric subsystem” and three lectures by J. Bockheim, A.G. Lewkowicz and C.Thorn took place. The organizers group showed the nival landforms and processes studied in the Sierra de Ancares during one day field trip. We are grateful to M. Valcárcel and P. Carrera by his efforts in organizing, and the invited lecturers by the three very interesting conferences on soils, permafrost and nival processes. Two awards were given to young researchers, one to the best young oral presentation and another one to the best young poster presentation. The first award was for Marc Oliva (UL) and the second one for María González-García (UMA).
Participants in the III Iberian Meeting of IPA in june 2011. The meeting was organised by Marcos Valcarcel (University of Santiago de Compostela) in Ancares (Galicia).
In 2011 has been edited a monographic number on rock glaciers in the Iberian Península (with papers in English and Spanish) of the review Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica (Geographical Research Papers, nº 37-1, 2011) edited by Prof. J. Arnáez (http://www.unirioja.es/servicios/sp/ej/cig/cig.shtml). Seven papers have been published with works on relict rock glaciers in Sierra Nevada (two papers), Cantabrian mountains (two papers), and active rock glaciers in the Pyrenees (three papers).
Several Spanish research groups have been made advances related to periglacial subjects:
PERMAMODEL project, run by the Department of Physics of Alcalá University in collaboration with the Centro de Estudos Geográficos-University of Lisbon, focuses on the study of the evolution of the thermal active layer in polar permafrost and it is leaded by Dr. Miguel Ramos (Alcalá University). The field experiments are developed in Livingston (62º39’S, 60º21’W), Deception and Penguin (62º43’S, 60º57’W) islands in the maritime Antarctic. These islands have significant areas with ice-free terrain underlain by permafrost and any of them with volcanic activity.
The location of these islands close to the mean annual temperature isotherm of -1ºC, and their position in the Antarctic Peninsula region, results in a very high sensitivity to climate change. The goal of this project is the monitoring of the temperature gradient of the active layer, as an approach for the calculation of the energy balance of the ground and therefore for the study of climate change, being complementary to the standard meteorological observations. Furthermore, monitoring of the temperature gradient and thermal fluxes of the permafrost in boreholes down to the zero annual amplitude depth, allow the application of inverse modeling techniques for the detection of climate change in decadal, and even centurial, time scales.
Also the Physics and Geology Departments of the Alcalá University are participating in the Mars Sciences Laboratory NASA mission (MSL) by mean of its join in the experience; Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) that is lead by the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB-INTA). Mars Science Laboratory is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of roboic exploration of the red planet. Launched on Nov. 26, 2011, 7:02 a.m. PST (10:02 a.m. EST). Mars Science Laboratory is a rover that will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life, basically on the permafrost system. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet's "habitability."
The Research Group on High Mountain Physical Geography of University Complutense of Madrid, leaded by Prof. David Palacios continues researches on climate change and hydrological resources in the Andes, included mountain permafrost and relationship with rock glaciers, recession of glaciers and volcanic activity. During 2011, in collaboration with Dr. Kenji Yoshikawa (University of Alaska), have been made several sounding between 1.5 and 4 m depth in the summits of Chachani (Perú) and Iztaccihualt (México), highest of 5,000 m a.s.l. (Figure 1). It was impossible to use helicopter and so the transport difficulties of the sounding machine were very great (Figure 1A). Present day the group is waiting to collect thermal data registered during the last year. Morever, the monitoring of the active layer have been continued by 1 meter depth sounding made to several altitudes (between 4,000 and 5,800 m a.s.l.) on the Chachani, Misti and Coropuna volcanoes of Peru, and Iztaccíhualt and Popocatépelt volcanoes of México.
Figure 1. A. Climb with a generator by the steep slopes of the volcano Chachani, at 5300 m altitude, in November 2010. The generator permitted to make a drilling and find a frozen body. B. Kenji Yoshikawa sounding on permafrost in the volcano's summit Iztaccihualt (Mexico) to 5100 high, in November 2011.
The Sierra Nevada and the Eastern Pyrenees have been the main places to study periglacial processes and landforms during 2011 by the University of Barcelona Research Group (2009SGR868), leaded by Prof. Antonio Gómez-Ortiz. The works made in the Sierra Nevada (SE of Iberian Peninsula, 37ºN 3ºW) have focused on the processes of relict glacier ice and permafrost in the Corral del Veleta (3,120 m a.s.l.). The relict ice was detected in 1999 under a block cover and from 2001 his evolution has been monitored. The origin of relict ice and permafrost conditions could be the historical cold period named Little Ice Age. In the Eastern Pyrenees (NE Iberian Peninsula, 42ºN 1ºE), have been registered soil thermal data of the alpine belt, where cryonival processes and landforms are dominants. Thermal monitoring of soils (2007-2011) indicates that the medium depth of seasonal frost-thaw is 35 cm depth at the forest belt (La Feixa-La Màniga, 2150 m) and 40 cm depth above the timberline (Calmquerdós, 2750 m).
Studies in Sierra Nevada, made in collaboration with the universities of Madrid (Complutense), Extremadura and Granada, show the progressive relict ice and permafrost degradation. The thermal data of active layer, the small snow cover during the summertime, the hummock on the debris cover and the frozen body geometry are indicators of the degradation processes. The electric tomography made in 2009 show a internal structure characterised by disconnected frozen bodies to depths -2 m, while in 1999 the top of frozen bodies was located to -1.20 m depth. At this time the frozen bodies was continuous and homogeneous. The thermal data point out a degradation of the top of the permafrost, present day at 1.50 m depth the temperatures change form -2.5ºC to 0.7ºC between June and September (Figure 2). The results of 2010 and 2011 measurements are unknown because from November 2009 the Corral del Veleta has a snow cover higher than 2 m thick during both summers. So, it is impossible to get data from the monitoring points. It is predicable the absence of degradation during the last two years because all debris cover is frozen and does not permit the penetration of the thermal radiation wave in the active layer.
Figure 2. Thermal rhythm of the active layer (Corral del Veleta, Sierra Nevada, 3,120 m a.s.l.).
The PANGEA Research group (University of Valladolid), continue working on cryosphere in the northern mountains of Iberian Peninsula focused on paleoenvironmental reconstruction of permafrost environments and the active periglacial high mountain environment. Projects supported by National Founds ( OAPN 053/2010 and CGL-2010-19729) and the collaboration between five universities (University of Valladolid, University of Extremadura, University of Basque Country, University of Cantabria, Saint Louis University and CES-ALFA Speleological Studies Centre) are dedicated to the study of slope processes related to ice and snow, and the ice existence (glaciers, relict ice, frozen bodies and ice caves) and his dynamic and distribution at the mountains of North Iberian Peninsula (Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains). The main objective is to complete the systematic observations through the application of DGPS and Laser-Scanner -on protalus lobe, rock glaciers, debris lobes and cones, ice-patches and ice caves-, soil thermal regimes (soils monitoring and BTS), data analysis of new mountain weather stations and geophysical techniques to relate slope geomorphological activity, thermal conditions and ice conservation and degradation.
This team is working on glacial and periglacial evolution during the Pleistocene and Holocene in the Pyrenees, the changes from glacial to periglacial environments and the present day periglacial processes and mountain permafrost distribution. Have been applied geomatic techniques, GPR ones and thermal measurements on the LIA forefields of Maladeta, Infierno and Posets massifs for studying the periglacial processes and mountain permafrost. Dattalogger and measurements on movements of rock glacier, protalus lobe, debris lobe and slopes look for to get a soil thermal map and a geomorphodynamic map. Partial results show relationship between permafrost and processes above 2700 m a.s.l. Present day, movements on Maladeta rock glacier, Maladeta protalus lobe and debris lobe at several altitudes are known, and they are a complementary knowledge to studies made on Posets and Argualas rock glacier during the last fifteen years. At the same time the PANGEA research Group is working on present day glaciers (Maladeta, La Paúl-Posets, Infierno, Monte Perdido and Ossue) by GPS control, Laser Scanner and GPR measurements as compliment of study of ice degradation on glaciers and soils.
In the Cantabrian Mountains, by means of soil thermal measurements by dattaloggers during the last five years and BTS measurements, have been established the existence of marginal permafrost environments related to relict glacier ice and favourable topoclimate conditions in the Picos de Europa massif. The periglacial processes in the most of Picos de Europa and all the other Cantabrian Mountains are related to the seasonal frozen soils. Slope processes at low altitudes are been studied as possible inherences to past cold period. Geomatic techniques (Laser-Scanner, DGPS, terrestrial photogrammetry) are being used to know the surface movement of debris cones, debris and fines lobes, slides, ploughing blocks, and the relationships with soil thermal regime, snow cover, water availability and surface processes – snow avalanches, rock fall, piping and gelifluction-. During the last two years have been studied the environment of ice caves in the Picos de Europa. An inventory of ice caves show more than 30 caves with perennial ice. Thermal and wet datalogger at different altitudes from 30 to 100 m. depth (Figure 3) have been set up in three ice caves of the Central Massifs. Ice have been analysed and laser scanner applied to know the ice age and cover, characters and dynamic. The next two years could be possible to get results.
Figure 3. Folded ice mass to 100 m depth in the Veronica Cave (Picos de Europa).
The Research Group on Geosciences and Antarctica, leaded by Jerónimo López-Martínez (University Autónoma of Madrid), is working on the characteristics and recent changes of geomorphological, neotectonic and hydrological processes as well as impacts on the terrain surface and superficial formations within the Northern Antarctic Peninsula region. The GEOPANT-2011 project studies the distribution of the permafrost, its effects on groundwater flows, and also the effects of human activities on soil and terrain surface. The methodology used was developed and applied previously by members of the research team in East Antarctica. The results will allow a comparison of the impacts from these effects and the recovery potential in different Antarctic environments. For all the studies in the different subjects included in this project, recent Radarsat-2 satellite images will be used. The images have already been acquired through the framework of the Canadian Space Agency.
The research group of University of Santiago de Compostela, leaded by Augusto Pérez-Alberti and Marcos Valcárcel continues working in the Galician Mountains and the Andes. Periglacial Andean environments in Tierra de Fuego and central Andes and nival processes in Ancares are the main researches developed by this research group.