The Italian research in the permafrost and periglacial environments was focused on the entire Alpine arch and in the Antarctic region.

Eastern Alps

Arabba Avalanche Center (Anselmo Cagnati, Andrea Crepaz) continued to monitor the periglacial environment of Piz Boè, in Veneto region, at an altitude of 2900 m a.s.l..
AWS, thermistors chain and GST monitoring network (20 i-Buttons) worked in the area of Piz Boè. In late Spring 2014 snowpack was about 300 cm high and melted very slowly until July (as 2013), influencing partly summer near-surface temperatures. Nevertheless borehole data showed a continuous increasing trend in the lower part.

A research on permafrost distribution in Veneto Region, simulated by Alpine 3D Model (together with Slf Davos - Walter Steinkogler, Mathias Bavey, Michael Lehning - and University of Zurich - Ingo Völksch) and verified by borehole data, has been undertaken and the results are under evaluation. 
Topographic survey has been repeated on the rock glaciers in September (forth year).
During Summer 2014 water samples have been collected (ARPAV and Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes - CNR, Venice - Carlo Barbante, Jacopo Gabrieli) every two weeks in the inlet spring. The shallow lake (Lech Dlacé) was completely covered by snow during the summer. Water discharge, temperature and conductivity have been determined continuously by an immersed probe near V-shaped weir.
All the samples will be analysed for pH, conductivity, major ions, trace elements, heavy metals, rare earth elements (REE) and stable isotopes (δD, δ18O).

Italy_Figure_1Figure 1. Lech Dlacé (Piz Boè area, Eastern Alps) was completely covered by snow during the summer.

Central Alps

The main activities in South Tyrol have been carried out by the Provincial Office for Geology and Building materials testing (V. Mair, K. Lang, D. Tonidandel), Autonomous Province of Bolzano. All the permafrost monitoring stations, which were installed during the Alpine Space project PermaNET, during the Interreg IV Italy-Austria project permaqua and during the Ortles Ice Core project are operant and are still collecting data. During the 2014 several water analysis were carried out in the permafrost areas. The duration of the ongoing Project Permaqua was extended until March 2015.

The following institutions are currently working on permafrost and periglacial environments in Trentino and in the Mount Ortles area:

- University of Padova, Department of Geosciences and Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry (G. Dalla Fontana, A. Bondesan, A. Carton, L. Carturan, T. Zanoner, G. Zuecco);

- University of Pavia, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (R. Seppi);

- Autonomous Province of Trento, Geological Service (S. Cocco, M. Zumiani);

- Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Geological Service (V. Mair, D. Tonidandel) and Hydrographic Office (R. Dinale);

- Ohio State University, Byrd Polar Research Center (P. Gabrielli)

The activities carried out during 2014 continued those initiated in previous years, mainly in the framework of the MIUR project (PRIN 2010–2011) "Response of morphoclimatic system dynamics to global changes and related geomorphological hazards", which involves the universities of Padova and Pavia. In addition, other activities were promoted by the Geological Survey of the Autonomous Province of Trento in collaboration with the universities of Pavia and Padova. In the Mount Ortles area, permafrost investigations were carried out by the Geological Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the University of Pavia, in collaboration with the University of Padova. These activities are part of an international project on the cryosphere of Mount Ortles coordinated by the Ohio State University and the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano.

In Val de la Mare (Ortles-Cevedale massif), GST measurements from monitoring sites located on bedrock and various landforms (active and inactive rock glaciers, scree slopes, glacial deposits) were continued, along with hydrological investigations in a small permafrost-dominated catchment.

The surface displacement of two active rock glaciers in the Adamello-Presanella massif, in progress since 2001, was measured also in 2014, along with GST measurements which are carried out since 2004. On these rock glaciers, the first data from the monitoring stations installed in 2013 for measuring the snow cover thickness and the air and ground temperature were retrieved. The two stations were repaired after the damage suffered by the heavy snowfall of the winter 2013/2014.

In the Dolomites, surface displacement and ground surface temperature measurements continued on a composite landform located in Val San Nicolò, in order to understand the current processes driving its evolution. In addition, the preliminary data on snow cover evolution were retrieved from the monitoring station installed in the previous year. This monitoring station was also repaired after the damages caused by the exceptionally heavy snowfall of winter 2013/2014.

The maintenance and the implementation of the permafrost monitoring stations installed in the framework of the PermaNET project (Cavaion site, Ortles Cevedale area and Lobbie Hut site, Adamello Presanella area) were carried out.

In the Mount Ortles area, the activities focused on the recovery of temperature data from several sites, including GST, temperature of rock faces at three depths (10, 30 and 55 cm from the surface), and englacial temperature of the Alto dell'Ortles glacier and of a small ice-cap located on the "Hintergrat" ridge of Mount Ortles.

Italy_Figure_1aFigure 2. Monitoring station at the Amola rock glacier (Adamello-Presanella massif)

Western Alps

In the Valle d'Aosta and Piemonte Region, the monitoring and study of permafrost phenomena in the year 2014 have been carried out by the following institutions:

- The Regional Agency for Environmental Protection - ARPA VdA (
- University of Turin – DST (
- University of Turin – NATRISK (LNSA and geoSITLab) (
- Politecnico di Torino - DIATI (
- National Research Council (Brugherio, MB)- CNR-IRSA (http://

ARPA VdA (E. Cremonese, U. Morra di Cella, P. Pogliotti) has implemented the permafrost monitoring network of Valle d'Aosta with 5 new boreholes. The first 2 boreholes have been drilled on an active rock glacier in Valtournenche. These boreholes will provide temperature and deformation data as complementary measures to GPS and UAV photogrammetry used for studying the surface dynamics over time (in collaboration with University of Fribourg, Switzerland). On Matterhorn, 3 new boreholes have been drilled on south and west faces of the Lyon Ridge at 3800 m of elevation. These boreholes will help to quantify the thermal effect of snow cover on deep and surface temperature in steep rockwalls.

Italy_Figure_2Figure 3. Drilling boreholes on the Rock Glacier of Gran Sommetta (Valtournenche, Valle d'Aosta).

DIATI Politecnico di Torino (A. Godio, D.Franco) is working, jointly with FondMS, NatRisk and University of VdA, MonteRosa Ski on a research program to estimate physical properties of snow in relation with snow-gliding phenonema. POLITO is testing electromagnetic sensors for humidity and density of snow; algoritms to convert electromagnetic data in snow properties have been developped. Polito is working, jointly with ARPA VdA, on processing of georadar data, collected on some glaciers by helicopter (Gran Etrét and Timorion), to estimate ice depth and volume by integrating geophysical and geomatic data. A thesis on Monitoring of Humidity and Density of Snow by Water Content Reflectometry has been discussed in the frame of Master of Science in Environmental Engineering at Politecnico di Torino.

NATRISK-LNSA (M. Freppaz, D. Godone, D. Said Pullicino, M. Martin, R. Gorra, I. Mania), NATRISK-GeoSITLab (M. Giardino, L. Perotti, S. Fratianni, N. Colombo, D. Guenzi), DIATI (D. Franco, L. Sambuelli), DST (C. Colombero, C. Comina) and CNR IRSA (F. Salerno, R. Balestrini, G. Viviano) are monitoring the climate change-permafrost relationships, in a test site, included into the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) network, located in the Col d'Olen area. In particular, the working group is focused on the quantification of climatic parameter impacts on chemical and physical features of permafrost meltwater, deriving from an active rock glacier and other contributing sources. Moreover, an innovative, low cost, data transmission system for remote areas, based on smartphone devices, is under testing.

NATRISK-GeoSITLab (M. Giardino, L. Perotti, M. Palomba, S.Bertotto, C. Viani). The update and digitalization of photo and aerial photo archives of periglacial areas in Piemonte region and Valle d'Aosta Regions have been completed for creating a database of glacial lakes distribution (in collaboration with Comitato Glaciologico Italiano and CNR-IRPI Torino). A Ph.D thesis has been completed (S. Bertotto) and a new Ph.D project started (C. Viani). In the framework of the IAG-WG on Landform Evaluation for Geodiversity Studies, the "dynamic" geodiversity of glacial and periglacial environments of the Western alps has been analyzed.

Arpa Piemonte (Dept. "Geology and Natural Hazards", Ref. Luca Paro), with the contribution of Insubriae University (Mauro Guglielmin), continued the activities developed during the European project "PermaNet" finished in September 2011. Since 2010, all the activities are included in a specific institutional topic named B3.19 "Permafrost monitoring" and new activities and collaborations have been carried out on the Piedmont Alps.

Synthetically, during the 2014 Arpa Piemonte carried out the following activities:

- Management of the regional network for permafrost monitoring. Maintenance of the permafrost monitoring stations in Piedmont Alps (changing batteries, data downloading, improving structure waterproofing, solar panels installations) and complete recovering of all monitoring sites damaged last years by water infiltration (details in the photo-report at the webpage Analysis of monitoring data from 6 stations (for a total of 4 boreholes 30 m deep, 2 boreholes 5 m deep, 1 borehole 10 m deep and 1 borehole 100 m deep).

- Management of GST monitoring sites. Maintenance of the GST sites installed in 2013 (22 thermistors in 4 sites: Sabbione Lake basin – Lepontine Alps, della Capra Gl. – Graiae Alps, Sommeiller Pass, Mt. Rocciamelone – Cottian Alps) and new GST installations in Sabbione lake basin and Mt. Rocciamelone. In the latter, 4 thermistors have been installed in fractures monitored by extensimeter in order to study the relationships between ground temperature and bedrock deformation.

- Surveys. BTS surveys in different sites of Piedmont Alps (Salati Pass - Pennine Alps, La Colletta Pass and Sommeiller Pass – Cottian Alps) in order to evaluate the permafrost distribution and to validate empirical and physical models. Analysis of geophysical data (electrical tomography) collected during ERT 2013 survey at the glacial-periglacial site (della Capra Gl., Graiae Alps) aimed to analyze permafrost evolution in a rock glacier-moraine system (with the contribution of Roberto Gambillara, Insubriae University). Cave survey in Maritime Alps finalized to observe ice presence and cryotic conditions in natural underground sites. Thermal imagery analysis in different sites through infrared camera in fractures of bedrock and in debris accumulations in high alpine sites.


Figure 4. BTS and snow depth measurements at the Salati Pass (3050 m asl, Pennine Alps). Mt Rosa in the background.


Figure 5. BTS measurements at the Colletta Pass (2880 m asl, Cottian Alps).

- Alpine watersprings project. In the framework of the ARPA Piemonte activities, as environmental regional agency, it has been developed an inner project about alpine springs, voted to analyze the role as sentinel ecosystems of springs in relation to global change. Main activities concern, among others, data collection useful for the evaluation of the hydrosphere-lithosphere-biosphere relationships and of the climate change effects on high altitude spring ecosystems. During the 2014, 7 sites have been analyzed and measured in Piedmont Alps over 2000 m of altitude, and 1 of these (Maira Valley - Cottian Alps, near permafrost monitoring station of the Gardetta Pass) was subjected to monitoring (2 thermistors for air and water temperature) in order to evaluate aquifers in permafrost conditions

- Model implementation. Elaboration and development of the PERMACLIM plug-in for openGIS application (QuantumGIS, based on the physical simplified model PERMACLIM (Guglielmin et al., 2003) for the potential permafrost distribution (in collaboration with Earth Sciences and Physical Depts., Torino University). In the framework of a graduation thesis (collaboration between Arpa Piemonte and Torino University, graduate: Maria Provenzale; tutor: Claudio Cassardo; co-tutor: Luca Paro and Christian Ronchi) an analysis of the thermodynamic fluxes among ground surface, snow and atmosphere has been carried out. In particular, during this thesis work, the PERMACLIM model implementation was completed and the model was applied in the Sabbione basin site (Lepontine Alps) using air temperature and snow height data for a time-frame 2001÷2009. For the studied period, due to its short length, it was not possible to identify a specific trend in the distribution of permafrost, and only oscillations were clearly observable. The model predictions hinted at an anti-correlation with the snow height and a strong anti-correlation with air temperature, as would indeed be expected according to the literature. The study of the correlation coefficients and of their statistical significance between these two variables also indicated that jointly considering the "probable" and "possible" permafrost probability classes addresses the existence of permafrost more precisely. A validation of the model was also performed, at the Salati Pass site (Pennine Alps), comparing modeled and measured surface temperature. Scatter plots, with their linear regressions, and correlation coefficients were calculated in order to evaluate the accuracy of the model. Initial results showed a good correlation between model predictions and measured data (high, statistically significant correlation coefficients), which indicated that the oscillation phases of the two variables are compatible, but also revealed a high model bias and an amplification of the oscillations in the model.

- Dissemination and education. Teaching activities in Schools, University and PhD School (lessons on permafrost and periglacial environment of Piedmont Alps). Popularizing activities addressed to the population, updating of institutional webpages, publication of videoclip and no-scientific articles on Arpa Piemonte's activities on cryosphere topics and Antarctica expedition (further information at the webpage


The monitoring programme on the ice-wedge thermal regime conducted by Rossana Raffi (Sapienza University of Roma) has been continued at three sites in northern Victoria Land. The programme, started on 2004, is based on data-logger measurements of hourly temperatures of the air, the ground surface, ice-wedge top and ice-wedge bottom recorded by thermistors.
New thermistors were set up in boreholes at depth of 160 cm, according to standardized protocols for long term permafrost monitoring. Two thermistors were set up on January 2013 at Baker Rocks and Boomerang Glacier, and one on November 2014 at Mount Jackman.


Figure 6. Location of the ice-wedge thermometric stations. MZS: Mario Zucchelli Station.

Report prepared by Adriano Ribolini (