In 2013 various activities took place by Austrian permafrost researchers regarding permafrost-related conferences in Austria, permafrost organisational issues as well as research on permafrost in the Austrian Alps. Furthermore, the Austrian Permafrost Working Group (see earlier reports for details) continued to improve collaborations between different permafrost researchers in the country. In the first part of this report general permafrost activities and events are presented in a chronological order. In the second part permafrost research carried out by the different permafrost research groups in Austria is summarised.

Part 1: General permafrost activities in Austria


The 5th Symposium for Research in Protected Areas took place at the National Park Centre of the Hohe Tauern National Park in Mittersill Austria during the period 10 to 12 June 2013. One of the sessions focussed on cryosphere research (session convener G. Köck, Vienna). 50% of the presentations in this session focused on permafrost, the other 50% on glacial issues.

Between June 11 and 13, 2013 a three day conference focusing on Swiss-Austrian collaborations on mountain research was also held in Mittersill overlapping with the above mentioned symposium. These “Mountain Days” were organised within the framework of the “CH-AT Alliance” program. The program was endorsed in October 2011 by the Swiss State Secretariat for Research and Education and the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research. The intention of this 5-year program is to provide Swiss and Austrian mountain researchers an opportunity to intensify their collaborations, to enhance their visibility and to advocate for mountain research at national, Alpine and European level (for details see One of the sessions at the Mountain Days was entitled “Research on Alpine Permafrost and Periglacial Environments: Research Questions, Coordination, Monitoring and Experiments” jointly convened by A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer (Graz, Austria) and A. Rist (Bern, Switzerland). Some 20 researcher from both countries participated in this session. After overview presentations regarding national permafrost activities given by the two conveners, a fruitful discussion took place regarding possible future joint-directions in this field of research.

In October 2013 the annual meeting of the German branch of the IPA (AK Permafrost) took place in Salzburg, Austria. This was the first time that the annual AK Permafrost meeting was carried out in Austria. After two days in Salzburg (24-25 October), an attractive excursion with excellent weather continuous was offered by the organiser on the 26 October to the Kitzssteinhorn (3203 m.a.s.l) mountain located in the Hohe Tauern Range (Fig. 1). The conference was organised by I. Hartmeyer and M. Keuschnig (both Salzburg and Innsbruck). Some 60 permafrost researcher from 19 different universities and research institutes in Austria, Switzerland and Germany participated in the conference. The excursion to Kitzsteinhorn was led by I. Hartmeyer, M. Keuschnig, and J.-C. Otto (Salzburg) and focussed on rock permafrost, mass movement processes on rock walls (both related to the MOREEXPERT project) and permafrost conditions in recently deglaciated areas (related to the permAfrost-WP3000 project; see previous annual reports and further below).
Within the framework of the AK-Permafrost meeting in Salzburg, the three PYRN groups of Austria, Germany and Switzerland were merged to one PYRN-DACH (Deutschland, Austria, Confoederatio Helvetica/Switzerland) group. Until 2013 PYRN-Austria was led by M. Avian (Graz). He was one of the eleven founding members of PYRN in 2007 and was in charge of PYRN-Austria since then. M. Avian gave over this function to I. Hartmeyer who is now the national contact person. Boris Radosavljevic (Germany) was chosen to represent the PYRN-DACH members to the PYRN council. For details on this activity refer to the PYRN newsletter for November and december.

Figure 1. Participants of the “AK Permafrost 2013” (German branch of the IPA) conference in Salzburg during the excursion at the Kitzssteinhorn (3203 m.a.s.l) located in the Hohe Tauern Range, Austria. The conference took place in October 2013. Photograph provided by Robert Delleske.


Finally, in December 2013 the first Austrian CGOS (Global Climate Observing System) report was finalised. GCOS is a co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Council for Science (ICSU). The report is written in German and deals with 23 chapters related to different atmospheric and terrestrial Essential Climate Variables (ECVs). One chapter is devoted to permafrost (written by A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer). For download of the report visit


Part 2: Reports from the different Austrian permafrost research groups


The national permafrost project permAfrost – Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative ended in 2013. The final report is currently in press and will be available online in the near future. General information about the project consortium and participating partners was given comprehensively in the previous national reports.




The University of Salzburg group of L. Schrott continued to carry out permafrost research within the projects permAfrost-WP3000 and MOREXPERT. permAfrost-WP3000 has been concluded in 2013. Please refer to earlier national reports regarding background and aims of these projects. Unfortunately for the Austrian permafrost community, Lothar Schrott quit his position at the University of Salzburg and started a new professorship position at the University of Bonn. We thank Lothar very much for all his research efforts during his Salzburg-years and wish him all the best for his future in Bonn!
In the MOREXPERT project (I. Hartmeyer, M. Keuschnig, L. Schrott, J.-C. Otto, C. Hiller, R. Delleske) – carried out in cooperation with alpS (Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Technologies, Innsbruck) – maintenance and expansion of the project’s mountain permafrost monitoring site (Kitzsteinhorn, 3.204 m a.s.l.) have been continued. Two 20m deep boreholes, both located in a tunnel, presently deliver temperatures from depths of up to 70 m below terrain surface (Fig. 2). Three further boreholes (30 m deep) are scheduled to go into operation in 2014. Furthermore, a total number of 30 sensors provide temperature data from shallow boreholes (0.1-0.8 m deep). Two permanently installed ERT arrays (one is operated by the Geological Survey of Austria) continue to automatically deliver information on near-surface ground thermal conditions. permAfrost-WP3000 (J.-C. Otto, M. Keuschnig), which focuses on permafrost-glacier interactions at the Kitzsteinhorn, has been concluded in 2013.

Figure 2. Borehole in permafrost-affected rock which is instrumented with a protective casing, Kitzsteinhorn, Hohe Tauern Range, at an elevation of 3030 m a.s.l. Photograph provided by Ingo Hartmeyer.


The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) Salzburg (C. Riedl) and ZAMG Vienna (H. Hausmann, W. Schöner) continued their research around the Sonnblick Observatory at Hoher Sonnblick (3106 m a.s.l.). The ZAMG permafrost activities are carried out within the PERSON project (Permafrostmonitoring Sonnblick), which was extended by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management until 2017 (see also earlier annual reports regarding PERSON). A new concept has been developed that evaluates the so far applied measurement techniques and redefines main targets, according to the achieved results. One central decision based on this assessment (which was done within a one-year ZAMG ‘internal structure-project’ on permafrost) is to equip the three 20m deep boreholes with new measurement devices in 2014, since serious problems occurred with the sensors presently in use. Further measures already taken for quality improvement are the installation of new surface temperature sensors and shallow boreholes with depths between 2 and 140cm in the summit area of Hoher Sonnblick and Wintergasse.
The Geological Survey of Austria, Department of Geophysics (D. Ottowitz, B. Jochum, R. Supper, S. Pfeiler, J-H. Kim) continued the geoelectrical monitoring in the Kitzsteinhorn area (see above) at an elevation of 2940 m a.s.l. using the monitoring system Geomon4D.


Graz and Leoben


The strongly collaborating group of permafrost researcher in Graz and Leoben continued its mountain permafrost research activities in the Hohe Tauern Range, Niedere Tauern Range and in the Northern Calcareous Alps. During 2013 researcher from three institutes at the two Universities in Graz – Department of Geography and Regional Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry, and Institute of Earth Sciences – (A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, G.K. Lieb, O. Sass, M. Rode, G. Winkler, M. Pauritsch, H. Schnepfleitner, M. Avian, V. Kaufmann, T. Wagner), as well as Joanneum Research in Leoben (R. Morawetz, M. Schreilechner) were involved in permafrost and periglacial research activities. The main projects are permAfrost-WP4000, Water Resources of Relict Rock Glaciers, and ROCKING ALPS. For details about these projects please refer to earlier reports. Furthermore, two new projects were launched in 2013.
permafrost-WP4000 (A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, M. Avian, V. Kaufmann, and B. Kühnast) was successfully accomplished in 2013. The final report will be available online in the near future. Research activities in the Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern Ranges related to permafrost and periglacial processes was successfully continued by various funding sources. Regarding Hohe Tauern Range, multidisciplinary monitoring at three active rock glacier sites (Weissenkar, Hinteres Langtalkar), one active rock fall site (Mittlerer and Hoher Burgstall, near Pasterze Glacier), and three marginally permafrost sites (Hintereggen Valley, Hochtor, Fallbichl) have been continued. Furthermore, the annual differential GNSS measurements at Leibnitzkopf Rock Glacier which started in 2010 were successfully repeated in summer 2013. Maximum flow velocities of 4.22 and 3.32 m/year were measured at Hinteres Langtalkar Rock Glacier and Leibnizkopf Rock Glacier, respectively. Mean annual flow velocity at Weissenkar rock glacier remained unchanged, whereas the flow velocity at the other three rock glaciers had increased in the range of 4-13%. A two years project financed by the Hohe Tauern National Park Authority was started in summer in order to investigate the partial or even complete replacement of the traditional measurement scheme (using a total station) by the modern differential GNSS measurement technique.
Research within the project Water Resources of Relict Rock Glaciers was continued by G. Winkler, M. Avian, R. Morawetz, M. Pauritsch, A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, and T. Wagner in the Styrian part of the Niedere Tauern Range. At a regional scale, the rock glacier inventory and subsequently the rock glacier catchment inventory of the Seckauer Tauern Range was finalized based on ALS data. In addition a precipitation-run off model for the Styrian part of the Niedere Tauern Range was started to quantify the impact of rock glaciers on the hydrology of alpine catchments. At local scale the aquifer geometry of the Schöneben Rock Glacier was determined by using different geophysical methods. Based on this data it was started to simulate numerically the hydraulic behavior of the rock glacier which will be combined with existing tracer test data. Furthermore, the permafrost monitoring network in the Niedere Tauern Range (A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer) was successfully continued.
The project ROCKING ALPS started in 2012 (O. Sass, M. Rode). In this project it is intended to investigate the governing factors of frost weathering and rockfall in alpine regions. One study site is located in the Dachstein Massif, Northern Calcareous Alps, reaching a maximum elevation of 2995 m a.s.l. In north and south exposed rock walls at Koppenkarstein a measurement system was collecting moisture and temperature data from the rock surface to 30cm depth. At small scale geoelectric profiles moisture distribution and movements during freeze thaw cycles was monitored. Additional the impact of rock permafrost on weathering is investigated. For this reason, several techniques were applied in order to detect rock wall permafrost. In the winter of 2012/13, 22 i-buttons (temperature sensors) were attached to the rock walls with different orientations but at similar altitudes (2600-2700 m a.s.l.). These temperature data were used as a first indicator of permafrost presence. Additional 2D-geoelctric surveys (five ERT profiles) were measured during the summer of 2013 in selected rock walls of the mountains Koppenkarstein (2863 m a.s.l.; Fig. 3), the Dirndln (2829 m a.s.l.) and the Gjaidstein (2794 m asl). With the start of the new INFRAROCK project long term rock temperature monitoring is planned at the Dachstein Massif (H. Schnepfleitner, O. Sass). In the winter of 2013/2014 it is intended to drill 30 boreholes around the Koppenkarstein in 10, 30, 50, 100, 250m depths. To determine the spatial distribution of the surface rock temperature infrared images will be made during the summer month (from May till October).

Figure 3. Preparation works for an ERT profile in a north-facing rock wall at the Dachstein massif (2995 m a.s.l.), Northern Calcareous Alps. Results from these measurements as well as from additionally applied methods proved permafrost existence. Photograph provided by Eric Rascher.




The University of Innsbruck group around K. Krainer (K. Krainer, U. Nickus, H. Thies, R.Tessadri, E. Schiestl, V. Schmidt, M. Hirnsperger) continued the monitoring program on the hydrology of active rock glaciers and permafrost-affected catchments in the Ötztal Alps and Lechtaler Alps (partly within the Interreg IV project PERMAQUA) to study the impact of climate change on the discharge pattern and water chemistry in high alpine regions. The monitoring program includes discharge measurements at several automatic gaging stations (including water temperature and electrical conductivity) and chemical analyses of water samples from several rock glacier springs (anions, cations, heavy metals). At selected rock glacier springs with extremely high electrical conductivity water samples were taken at an interval of one day by using an automatic water sampler from June until October. We also started modeling the distribution of permafrost in the Tyrolean Alps (based on the rock glacier inventory and additional data). In 2013 this group also finished detailed analysis of two cores which were drilled at rock glacier Lazaun in the southern Ötztal Alps (Schnals Valley, South Tyrol, Italy). The analyses included the amount of ice, electrical conductivity, pH, anions, cations, heavy metals, stable isotopes, palynology and radiocarbon-dating. Furthermore, hydrological measurements, geological mapping of distinct rock glacier catchments in Tyrol and the processing of a sediment core from a bog accomplished the work of this group in 2013.
The projects at the Institute of Geography (around J. Stötter) at the University of Innsbruck mainly focus on the detection and quantification of permafrost degradation in the Western Austrian and Northern Italian Alps using ALS and TLS as well as photogrammetric analysis. Detailed investigations have been carried out on rockglaciers, frozen debris and rock walls. Furthermore, based on an analysis of rock glaciers with ALS datasets, a rockglacier activity index has been developed. The project MALS (G. Kaser, L. Rieg, R. Sailer, J. Stötter) was finished by the end of 2013. The project aimed at the detection, evaluation and interpretation of surface elevation changes on glaciers and rockglaciers in the Ortler Group and the Southern Ötztal Alps (Schnalstal) from repeated ALS campaigns and geophysical techniques. Starting in September 2013, the SE.MAP project (C. Klug, L. Rieg, R. Sailer, J. Stötter) – funded by the Austrian Space Application Programme – aims at the detection of high mountain geomorphic processes including rock glacier activities based on ALS and optical tri-stereo satellite data. Concerning the detection of permafrost, the capacity of a high-end infrared camera was tested in the Ötztal Alps (B. Höflinger, M. Rutzinger, R. Sailer, J. Stötter).
Researcher at the Institute of Ecology of the University of Innsbruck (K. Koinig, B. Ilyashuk, E. Ilyashuk.,G. Köck, R. Lackner, R. Psenner) continued their investigations of sediment records, aquatic species and water chemistry in lakes affected by permafrost meltwater. Three projects are in the finishing process with articles by B. Ilyashuk et al. about the influence of permafrost on makrozoobenthos currently under review, and the interpretation of Holocene trends of permafrost variability observed in sediment cores currently compiled by K. Koinig and E. Ilyashuk.
A joint research group consisting of members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, the Department of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, and Alpine Forschungstelle Obergurgl/AFO (M. Stocker-Waldhuber, L. Hartl, A. Fischer) continued to monitor flow velocity and surface elevation change at the Äußeres Hochebenkar Rock Glacier. The association Verein Gletscher-Klima supports these measurements in order to ensure the continuation of the exceptionally long time series of flow velocity data that exists for the rock glacier. In April 2013, GPR measurements were carried out at this rock glacier. These measurements are being evaluated and compared to older GPR data from 2008 and 2002 in order to gain information about the thickness of the rock glacier (L. Hartl, A. Fischer).


Current research activities by the Geological Survey of Austria, Department of Geophysics (D. ttowitz, B. Jochum, R. Supper, S. Pfeiler, J-H. Kim) at Kitzsteinhorn and the ZAMG group in Vienna (W. Schöner, H. Hausmann) on Mt. Sonnblick were mentioned above.
A research group with focus on remote sensing applications for permafrost research lead by A. Bartsch has been established as part of the newly founded Austrian Polar Research Institute. This group unites researchers from University of Salzburg (A. Bartsch), Vienna University of Technology (B. Widhalm, E. Högström) and the Scott Polar Research Institute, UK (A.M. Trofaier). This group contributes to the FP7 Project PAGE21 (lead by AWI Potsdam). A new bi-lateral Austrian-Russian project on permafrost monitoring on the Yamal peninsula (COLD Yamal) has been approved by the Austrian Science Fund as well as the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. Remotely sensed data will be combined with field measurements for the assessment of land-surface dynamics in cooperation with partners of the Russian Academy of Science. As part of the kick-off workshop an open workshop on Permafrost on the Yamal Peninsula has been organized back-to-back with the AK-Permafrost meeting in Salzburg mentioned above. A. Bartsch also contributes to the organization of the ESA-CliC-IPA funded workshop on remote sensing of permafrost at the European Space Agency in February 2014.


Report prepared by Dr. Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer, Department of Geography and Regional Science, University of Graz (