The EVENT in 2003 was the preparation for the 8th International Conference on Permafrost in July. The main work load was carried out by the University of Zurich, the ETH Zurich and the SLF Davos, but all other Swiss institutes working on permafrost contributed as well.


The first pilot phase of the “Permafrost Monitoring Switzerland (PERMOS)” will come to an end this year. During the second pilot phase (2004–2005) the methodology of the BTS-area part of PERMOS will be improved. The following activities are reported by several institutes:

•The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) has started a new project to investigate the role of water in the active layer on steep scree slopes in alpine permafrost. Armin Rist is undertaking a Ph.D. in this context to obtain a better understanding of the interactions between water, ground temperature, and slope stability. Two boreholes were drilled in 2002 at Flüela Pass by Martina Lütschg who is monitoring and modelling the permafrost at the foot of a slope cooled by avalanche deposits. After being an editor of the 2003 ICOP proceedings, Marcia Phillips continues to monitor the performance of snow-supporting structures on steep avalanche slopes in creeping permafrost at three high altitude sites, and is involved in a project concerning a chairlift with stability problems. The SLF borehole programme now has a total of 12 boreholes at various sites in the eastern and western Swiss Alps in which ground temperatures and slope stability measurement are made—most of these are included in the PERMOS network.

• Permafrost monitoring on Schilthorn combined with geophysical and meteorological measurements has continued by Christian Hauck (Institute for MeteorMeteorology and Climate Research, University of Karlsruhe), Ingo Völksch (ETH Zurich), Lars Schudel and Martin Hoelzle (University of Zurich).

•At the Glaciology and Geomorphodynamics Group (University of Zurich), a number of permafrost activities are reported:

  • GIS-based modelling of rock glacier distribution in the Upper Engadin area is being performed by Regula Frauenfelder, Bernhard Schneider (University of Basel), Wilfried Haeberli and Martin Hoelzle;
  • Energy flux processes in the active layer in the Corvatsch area are being investigated by Susanne Hanson, Monika Oswald and Martin Hoelzle;
  • Rock wall temperatures and application of the surface energy balance model Permebal provide spatial surface temperature information. Hyperspectral and laser altimeter remote sensing data are used for the determination of accurate surface characterization such as albedo and surface roughness, which are used as input for the Permebal model (Stephan Gruber, Stephan Heiner, Daniel Schläpfer, Martin Hoelzle);
  • Downscaling of climate model information for coupling with local energy balance models is being investigated in the Swiss Alps by Nadine Salzmann and Martin Hoelzle;
  • Energy balance measurements and validation of the Permebal model in the Stockhorn-Zermatt area are performed by Nina Riesen, Stephan Gruber and Martin Hoelzle.

•On the two rock glaciers Muragl and Murtèl-Corvatsch temperature monitoring and borehole deformation measurements are ongoing within PERMOS. Based on the results of ETH-Mini-Poly project, laboratory experiments are being performed at the Institute for Geotechnical Engineering, ETH Zurich (Sarah Springman, Lukas Arenson).

• As for the past several years, at the Institutes of Geography of the Universities of Lausanne (Christophe Lambiel, Emmanuel Reynard) and Fribourg (Reynald Delaloye, Sébastien Métrailler) permafrost activities continue in close collaboration. The focus remains on the investigation of permafrost conditions on scree slopes, on the Little Ice Age forefields of small glaciers as well as on several rock glaciers, mainly in the western Swiss Alps. Some new sites are being investigated:

  • On the Aget glacier forefield (Bagnes valley), frozen materials were moved by the Little Ice Age advance of the glacier. The frozen ground is now creeping/sliding backward due to the absence of the glacier (30 cm/a).
  • In the Réchy/Lona region, the same electrical soundings and BTS measurements were carried out as in 1990 and compared (in collaboration with R. Lugon, University Institute Kurt Bösch, Sion).
  • A 20-m deep borehole was drilled in the frozen lateral moraine of the Tortin glacier (Mont Fort; temperatures are between –0.5 and –0.75°C).
  • A steep valley side affected by slope and rock instabilities was investigated in the Arolla area. Many DC resistivity soundings and resistivity mapping lines were carried out on the different objects of the site (rock glaciers, scree slopes and glacier forefield).

Daniel Vonder Mühll (