Portuguese research on contemporary permafrost environments in 2012 developed in the Antarctic Peninsula region (projects SNOWCHANGE and PERMANTAR-2) and Svalbard (Project ANAPOLIS).

Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of periglacial environments has been conducted in the South Shetlands (Project HOLOANTAR) and the Central Cordillera in Portugal (ongoing PhD thesis). Antarctic activities have been framed in the new Portuguese Polar Program (PROPOLAR) funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT). The activities are summarized below. A new 2-year project on focusing on permafrost research in the Antarctic Peninsula region (PERMANTAR-3) has been approved by the FCT and will start in 2013.

The 4th European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP4) to take place in Évora (18-21 June 2014) has been approved as the next IPA Regional Conference, at the IPA Council Meetings during TICOP. The international scientific committee has been implemented and the conference website with the on-line pre-registration form is now available at http://www.eucop4.org.

The project Snowpatch dynamics and the changing permafrost environment (SNOWCHANGE) coordinated by G. Vieira (CEG/IGOT - University of Lisbon) had field activities in January 2012 in Fildes Peninsula (King George Island, Antarctic Peninsula). The objectives of the field work were ground truthing of snow patch properties, terrain types and sediment sampling near snow patches. TerraSAR-X spotlight mode scenes have been acquired at the time of snow pit surveying and are evaluated for assessing their applicability for snow mapping in the cloudy Maritime Antarctic environments. Mapping of lichens using high resolution satellite imagery and their use as bioindicators of snow conditions is being evaluated. An hyperspectral camera has been tested in order to assess on the potential to discriminate vegetation and snow properties. The results of the project will allow to better monitor the dynamics of the snow cover in the region and hence, integrate the data on permafrost modelling.

The project Permafrost and Climate Change in the Maritime Antarctic (PERMANTAR-2 – http://www.antecc.org) coordinated by G. Vieira had field activities from December 2011 to March 2012, with campaigns in Deception Island, Livingston Island, Anvers Island and Cierva Cove. Besides maintenance of existing permafrost and active layer monitoring infrastructure,  electrical resistivity surveying and detailed geomorphological mapping were conducted. Major outcomes of the project during this season were two new permafrost boreholes drilled in collaboration with James Bockheim (University of Wisconsin-Madison) in a cooperative NSF and FCT project. A 15m deep borehole was drilled in bedrock near Palmer Station in Amsler Island and a 16m borehole was drilled in Cierva Cove not far from the Argentinean Station Primavera. In the sequence of these observations, a new regional synthesis has been published in Global and Planetary Change (Bockheim et al. 2013).

The project Analysis of polygonal terrains on Mars based on Earth analogues (ANAPOLIS - http://planetsci-cerena.weebly.com/anapolis.html) coordinated by Pedro Pina (CERENA - Technical University of Lisbon), which is a partnership with Hanne Christiansen (UNIS-Norway) continued its activities in Adventdalen (Svalbard), focusing on characterization and mapping of ice-wedge polygons from high resolution remote sensing and in situ observations.

Late Holocene Evolution of the South Shetlands Permafrost Environment (HOLOANTAR – http://holoantar.weebly.com) is a new project led by Marc Oliva (CEG/IGOT – University of Lisbon) that focus on lake sediment coring and analysis in the South Shetlands. The first campaign took place in King George Island in January-February 2012, with lake coring in Barton and Potter Peninsulas. The second campaign took place in November 2012 in Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island), the largest ice-free area of the South Shetlands, in cooperation with the Brazilean project Criossolos. 4 new cores have been collected suming up over 17 m of sediment.

Periglacial slope deposits of the serra da Estrela (Central Portugal) are being studied by the CEG/IGOT – University of Lisbon and are the subject of the ongoing PhD research by Alexandre Trindade. Research focuses on macro and microfabrics, with an emphasis on micromorphology, with the objective of identifying cryogenic features and the paleo zonation of permafrost in the mountain.
The Luso-Brazilean programe for research on permafrost and terrestrial ecosystems of the Maritime Antarctic, funded by FCT-CAPES, continued during 2012. The project is a partnership of the universities of Lisbon and Évora (Portugal) and Federal of Viçosa and Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Exchanges of researchers and PhD students took place and field campaigns were organized together in the framework of projects Permantar-2, Holoantar and Criossolos. A short course on cryosols took place at the University of Lisbon by Carlos Schaefer and another on electrical resistivity surveying took place at the Federal University of Viçosa by António Correia.

Gonçalo Vieira