The Italian research in the permafrost and periglacial environments was focused on the entire Alpine arch and in the Antarctic region. It is worth to be noted that since 2012 the Italian permafrost community is self-organized within the PermaItaly initiative with the aim of aggregate, coordinate and promote the mountain permafrost research at national level.

In 2015, a first workshop focused on the monitoring and study of rock glaciers has been held in Valle d‘Aosta (October 13-15th). For three days more than 20 researchers with very diverse background (geologists, biologists, hydrologists, ...) have presented their ongoing researches, discussed and planned future common initiatives at community level. Participation, aggregation and sharing (of skills and data) have been the keywords of this nice workshop (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Workshop on Rock Glaciers Monitoring and Dynamics (Aosta, 13-15th October 2015).

Eastern Alps

In the northeastern most part of the Italian Alpine chain, in Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) high altitude karstic environments, preserving permanent ice deposits within caves, are under investigation since 2011. Since their main characteristics is to have ground ice older than 2 years, many authors are prone to consider ice caves as sporadic permafrost phenomena (e.g. Holmlund et al., 2005; Luetscher et al. 2005, Hausmann and Behm, 2011; Kern et al., 2011). As part of the cryosphere such ice masses are linked to the climate and respond to climate change, thus several rock and air temperature monitoring stations are still active in the Leupa ice caves, located at 2,300 m of elevation. This cave was identified in 2011 as the most suitable for a long monitoring campaign. A complete FVG-inventory of ice-caves and cryo-caves has been also established during 2015. This year the Automatic Weather Stations of Canin (2,200 m a.s.l.) was implemented with 7
ground thermistors at different depths in the recently deglaciated sector of the Eastern Canin glacier. Geophysical investigations aiming at characterize the presence of possible ground-ice patches are also ongoing over the mountain sectors of the Region (R. Colucci, E. Forte, M. Guglielmin)

Central Alps

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 Centre (P. Gabrielli)
- IASMA-Research & Innovation Centre, Fondazione E. Mach (M. Tolotti)
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. In the same area, the monitoring station established in 2010 at Cavaion site (~2900 m asl) during the PermaNET project was equipped with a new thermistor chain for measuring the temperature in a 50 m borehole drilled in bedrock. Here, the climatic variables are also under measurement.
The surface displacement of two active rock glaciers in the Adamello Presanella massif, in progress since 2001, was measured also in 2015, along with GST measurements which are carried out since 2004 (Figure 2). On these rock glaciers, the data from the monitoring stations installed in 2013 for measuring the snow cover thickness and the air and ground temperature were retrieved. In this area, the data from the monitoring station established close to the Lobbie Hut (~3000 m asl) during the PermaNET project (temperature from a 20 m borehole drilled in bedrock and air temperature) were retrieved.
In the Dolomites, surface displacement and ground surface temperature measurements continued on a composite permafrost landform located in Val San Nicolò, in order to understand the current processes driving its evolution. In addition, the data on snow cover evolution were retrieved from the monitoring station installed in the 2013.
Preliminary investigations on the hydrochemistry and the biology of lakes and streams affected by permafrost and active rock glaciers were conducted in the Ortles Cevedale and the Presanella massifs.
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 (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Measurements of the surface displacement of the Maroccaro rock glacier in the Adamello Presanella area (on the left) and monitoring of englacial temperature of a small ice-cap located on the “Hintergrat” ridge of Mount Ortles (on the right).

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, the Interreg IV Italy-Austria project Permaqua and the Ortles Ice Core project are operant and are still collecting data of internal temperatures of three rock glaciers and several rock faces.

Western Alps

In July 2015, Environmental Protection Agency of Valle d‘Aosta (ARPA VdA) (E. Cremonese, U. Morra di Cella, P. Pogliotti) hosted in Cervinia the Field Course of the Applied Geophysical Methods organized by Prof. Christian Hauck (Uni. Fribourg, CH). During the 4-days field works, repeated electrical (ERT) and seismic (RST) tomography have been realized in the permafrost monitoring sites of Cime Bianche ( and Gran Sommetta rock glacier. On this last site, have been equipped two 15m deep boreholes, drilled in 2014, with thermistor chains and TDR-cable for deformation detecting. On the same site, repeated UAV and GNSS campaigns have been carried on throughout the summer for studying the surface dynamics over time (, in collaboration with Prof. Reynald Delaloye (Uni. Fribourg, CH).
NATRISK-LNSA (M. Freppaz, M. Isabellon, M. D‘Amico) and ARPA VdA are carrying out the monitoring of low-elevation permafrost in two talus-slope sites in the Lys valley (Monte Rosa Massif). In the South-Eastern sector of the Aosta Valley, pedological investigations are being performed on selected patterned ground areas associated with permafrost with the aims of understanding the effect of lithology on patterned ground morphology and plant ecology in cold high altitude environments.
- Nicola Colombo pursues a joint PhD between Carleton University - Canada (supervision S. Gruber) and the University of Turin (supervision S. Fratianni, M. Giardino, M. Freppaz). His thesis work investigates the interactions between permafrost and physiochemical characteristics of surface water in the Western Italian Alps (LTER site Istituto Mosso), in collaboration with IRSA-CNR (F. Salerno, R. Balestrini, G. Viviano).

Arpa Piemonte (Dept. “Geology and Natural Hazards”, Ref. Luca Paro), with the contribution of Insubria 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 2015 Arpa Piemonte carried out the following activities:
- Management of the regional network for permafrost monitoring. Maintenance of the permafrost monitoring stations in Piedmont Alps and analysis of monitoring data related to climate conditions. The regional network is constituted by 5 sites with vertical boreholes: 2 stations in Southern Cottian Alps (Gardetta Pass and Colletta Pass, boreholes 30 m deep each), 1 station in the Northern Cottian Alps (Sommeiller Pass key site, 3 borehole with 5, 10 and 100 m deep), 2 stations in the Pennine Alps (Salati Pass, two boreholes of 5 and 30 m deep; Mt. Moro Pass, 30 m deep). A new temporary weather station has been installed at the Salati Pass on the roof of the cableway station.
- Management of GST monitoring sites. Maintenance and improving of the GST sites installed since 2013; download and analysis of GST data. The GST network is constituted by 5 sites: Sabbione Lake basin – Lepontine Alps (8 sensors: 1 for air temperature, 3 in the same site at 2, 10 and 50 cm underground, and 4 sensors at 2 cm underground in the moraine rock glacier); Corno del Camoscio – Pennine Alps (2 sensors at 2 and 10 cm undersoil); Sommeiller Pass - Cottian Alps (4 sensors: 2 under the nivometer at 2 and 10 cm underground and 2 sensors at 2 cm underground at 5 and 10 m far from the weather station towards N); Mt. Rocciamelone – Cottian Alps (6 sensors: 2 sensors at 2 cm in the rockwall near the extensimeter, 4 sensors in two wide open fractures at 2, 10 and 60 cm in the rockwall); Prato Ciorliero – Cottian Alps (2 sensors: 1 for air temperature and 1 at 2 cm undersoil). The latter, has been installed in December 2015 to improve the waterspring monitoring site already installed.
- Surveys. BTS surveys in different sites of Piedmont Alps (Salati Pass - Pennine Alps, Sommeiller Pass and Prato Ciorliero – Cottian Alps, and Mt. Argentera site – Maritime Alps) in order to evaluate the permafrost distribution and to validate empirical and physical models.
- Project and Agreement. Arpa Piemonte is partner in approved European project (ALCOTRA Programme 2014+) named “PrevRiskHauteMontagne” that it will start on January 2016. The main aim of the project is to analyze new risks in glacial and periglacial areas due to climate change. Arpa Piemonte will establish a new monitoring site (inclinometers and thermometers) on the Southern watershed of the Mt. Rocciamelone that highlighted an active landslide at 3200 m of high. A new biennial agreement has been activated between Arpa Piemonte and Pisa University (A. Ribolini) in order to analyze and improve monitoring and surveys activities in periglacial areas of Maritime Alps.
- 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


Rossana Raffi (Sapienza University of Roma) continued the activities focused on the monitoring of the permafrost thermal regime at three ice-wedge polygon sites (Figure 3). The research, started on 2004 in the framework of the Italian Antarctic Research Program (PNRA), is based on data-logger measurements of hourly temperatures of the air, the ground surface, ice-wedge top and bottom and of 160 cm depth.


Figure 3. Location of the ice-wedge thermometric stations. MZS: PNRA Mario Zucchelli Station.

Report prepared by Andreas Ribolini (