In 2015, Polish scientists investigated different aspects of permafrost on Spitsbergen and in the Polish mountains.

In 2015, scientists from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań relocated the University Polar Station from the area of Petunia Bay to a new location in the area of Pyramiden. The main direction of work in the scope of permafrost and periglacial research was the continuation of already initiated observations of active layer temperature and thickness according to CALM guidelines at two sites differing in ground humidity conditions (‘dry’ – on a raised marine terrace and ‘wet – on the surface of a river terrace).

Both sites in the test area of Ebba Valley were furnished with temperature sensors placed down to 1.4 m b.g.l. and sub-surface humidity measurements were carried out. The programme of aeolian processes activity in the conditions of a dry polar climate was also continued, and so were observations of the development of active layer detachments. More attention was paid to the observation of frost weathering and slope processes in periglacial conditions. Systems of sediment collecting traps at the foot of exposed rock-walls and on talus/alluvial fans were mounted (Fig. 1) and supplied with a system of wheels to measure suprapermafrost ground-water circulation. An additional attempt was made to perform deeper drilling in the permafrost (Fig. 2), however under the 1.5-m deep active layer only 0.7 m in frozen substrate was reached, yet seven temperature sensors were arranged from the surface to a depth of 2.2 m. The drilling system is prepared to be used to a depth of 20 m during the next season.


Fig. 1. Sediment traps to measure rock fall activity on limestone cliffs in Ebba Valley (Photo by Liliana Siekacz)


Fig. 2. Permafrost drilling equipment on a raised marine terrace 30 m a.s.l. on the eastern coast of Petunia Bay (Photo by Grzegorz Rachlewicz)


In 2015, measurements of the active layer depth of permafrost, its thermal conditions, as well as its dynamics were continued at the CALM project Site P2 (A-C) – located near the Nicolaus Copernicus University station (Fig. 3) in Kaffiøyra.


Fig. 3. The location of the Nicolaus Copernicus University Polar Station in Kaffiøyra (NW Spitsbergen) and the CALM Site P2, where active layer depth and ground temperature measurements were carried out. P2A – beach, P2B – tundra, and P2C – moraine (Photo by A. Araźny)

Furthermore, these investigations were also performed at two independent test sites (100x100 m) arranged according to the CALM project rules. At each of the test sites a set of temperature and humidity sensors was installed at various depths (1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 cm for temperature, and 5 and 10 cm for humidity) connected to data-loggers. The measurements of the rate of ground thawing and the thickness of the permafrost active layer at the sites were performed every 7-10 days in July and August. The ground temperature at Site P2 was measured at standard depths up to 1-2 m in the same three different ecotopes as it was in the case of the active layer depth measurements, i.e. the beach (P-2A), the tundra (P2-B), and the moraine (P-2C) (see Fig. 3). Continuous series of ground temperature measurements are available for the moraine and tundra (since 2006) and for the beach (since 2012). For this purpose, both mercury thermometers (readings taken every 6 hours, only in summer) and automatic temperature loggers (registration every 10 minutes, year-round) were installed at the measurement sites.

In 2015, studies on permafrost were conducted by the team of Dr. W. Dobiński (University of Silesia) in two directions. The first was focused on a detailed investigation of glacier-permafrost relationships. Relevant fieldwork research was done in the forefield of the Hans  Glacier in Hornsund, Spitsbergen. Thirty one electroresistivity profiles from 20 to 1500-m long were made. The depth range from a few meters to almost 100 meters indicates the presence of permafrost between the coast and the mountain slopes and across the entire glacier foreland.

The second direction was a search for the lower limit of permafrost  occurrence in Western Carpathians. For this purpose 3 electroresistivity profiles were made at the top of Babia Gora, 1725 m a.s.l. The results will be published in 2016 in the Polish journal "The Geographical Review".

Report prepared by Rajmund Przybylak (