The Swiss Society on Snow, Ice and Permafrost was founded in June 2006. It is open to everybody interested in cryospheric research in Switzerland. The president, Martin Hoelzle (firstname.lastname@example.org), is happy to receive applications for membership. The Society will soon be part of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SAS), and closely work together with the SAS commission responsible for monitoring networks for snow, glaciers and permafrost.
The «Permafrost Monitoring Switzerland» has been established for the next four years. The Swiss Academy of Sciences (SAS), the Federal Office for Environment (FOE) and the Federal Office for Meteorology (MeteoSwitzerland) signed a contract to support PERMOS, which allows PERMOS to establish a 50 % coordination position, to implement a methodological/ technological standard at all approved PERMOS stations and ensure the ongoing operation by the eight Swiss university institutes involved in permafrost research. MeteoSwitzerland is responsible as well for the GTOS/ GCOS, which tightens the link to GTN-P. Besides the borehole, surface and bedrock temperatures and the aerial photographs, six electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) profiles were permanently installed at permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps within the PERMOS monitoring project in collaboration with the University of Jena (C. Hilbich) and the University of Karlsruhe (C. Hauck). By monitoring the electrical resistivity, the ground ice content evolution can be adequately determined over longer time spans with high spatial resolution.
The Federal Office for Environment (FOE) published a set of maps (1:50 000) which indicate permafrost distribution and potential zones of natural hazards. The maps were produced by a collaboration of the SMEs Academia Engadina, Getest and Geo7, supported by a scientific advisory panel.
An interdisciplinary project within the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) named «Mobile Information and Communication Systems» has been developed with the Universities of Zurich and Basel in collaboration with ALPUG . It involves a new generation of specialized sensor rods that measure temperature and conductivity in solid or fractured bedrock at four different depths down to 90 cm. The sensors are employed in order to investigate freeze/thaw and advection of heat by water circulation near the surface. The instruments communicate using wireless technology and a central GPRS downlink, and thus reduces maintenance cost and time (A. Hasler, I. Talzi, S. Gruber, H.U. Gubler, D. Vonder Mühll, Chr. Tschudin).
The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos has extended its network of monitoring sites, with a horizontal borehole through the Gemsstock ridge at 2950 m asl and two vertical ones in the Matterhorn Hörnli ridge, at 3300 m. These boreholes in frozen rock walls complete a network of well instrumented sites located in various types of complex alpine terrain, as well as in the vicinity of buildings or on construction sites. Rock wall dynamics are being investigated using the 3D-laser scanning technique and internal deformation measurements. There is now a ten-year data series for Arolla and Pontresina, where the suitability of different types of avalanche defence structures and anchoring systems continues to be monitored (M. Phillips). A series of laboratory shear box tests have been carried out to determine active layer stability under varying hydrothermal conditions – combined with field investigations. These have delivered valuable information on potential scree slope failure mechanisms (A. Rist, M. Phillips). The model ALPINE-3D has been successfully adapted and used to predict permafrost occurrence and evolution for sites in the Italian and Swiss Alps (M. Lehning, I. Völksch).
The University of Zurich is active in the following projects. In order to use Regional Climate Model data in permafrost modelling, a downscaling methodology has been established and a possible range of changes in ground surface temperatures in steep rock walls has been assessed by driving an energy balance model with output gained from a set of 12 different regional climate models for a number of different topographical situations. Results show a significant influence of topography (mainly aspect) on the temperature changes (N. Salzmann, J. Noetzli, S. Gruber, M. Hoelzle).
Over 40 locations of near-surface rock temperatures in steep topography are monitored (S. Gruber, R. Delaloye, J. Noetzli, M. Hoelzle). The complex 4-dimensional thermal conditions in high mountain topography (e.g. peaks and ridges) are investigated using an energy balance model coupled to a 3D heat conduction scheme. Time-dependent simulations are based on scenario data gained from RCM output. Results indicate complex 3-dimensional temperature patterns below mountainous topography for equilibrium conditions, which are additionally perturbed by transient effects. Permafrost can thus be found at many locations where temperatures at the surface do not indicate this and that traditional 2D maps would not be sufficient (J. Noetzli, S. Gruber, N. Salzmann, M. Hoelzle).
Rock fall events from periglacial areas are currently inventoried and investigated in the perspective of permafrost degradation in steep rock walls together with the geological, geomechanical and climate-related parameters and involved processes controlling the stability of highmountain rock walls (L. Fischer, J. Noetzli, S. Gruber, Ch. Huggel). The extreme thaw during the summer of 2003 is regarded to be the prime reason for the many observed rock fall events between June and August of that year. Purely conductive thaw however would have resulted in active-layer thickening much later in the year at the observed locations, possibly hinting at decisive influence of advective heat transfer. Monte-Carlo simulation of temperatures and thaw depth between 1985 and 2003 was used to investigate this process (T. Handschin, S. Gruber). A simplified energy-balance model for deterministicprobabilistic (Monte-Carlo) assessment of the spatial temperature distribution in steep terrain is currently developed and tested. (S. Gruber).
3D-modelling of realistic thermal conditions within alpine mountain peaks is still a major challenge. To achieve better information of the subsurface conditions as an input for the modelling, an intensive 2D-resistivity tomography was performed at the Schilthorn mountain top (C. Hilbich, M. Krauer, C. Hauck, J. Noetzli, M. Hoelzle).
Validation of permafrost modelling against measured data must be an integral part of the model development process. Some process models contain an energy balance module which allows the calculation of surface temperatures as used as an input for thermal ground modelling. On specific sites, where meteorological stations and boreholes are available, important climate variables, such as air or ground temperatures, height of snow cover or radiation can be used as validation for the modelled energy balance variables (M. Hoelzle, S. Gruber).
In several small projects energy exchange at the surface and within the active layer was investigated at the Murtel-Corvatsch site Upper-Engadin, Switzerland. Energy fluxes at the surface (including snow) and within the active layer are still poorly understood, but play an essential role in process-oriented research and sensitivity studies with respect to complex interactions and feedback mechanisms within the alpine permafrost system. Circulation of water, and especially air, can cause important lateral fluxes of mass and energy within coarse blocks on steep slopes and result in highly variable and sometimes extreme thermal offsets between the ground surface and the permafrost table. Measuring and modelling such fluxes together with coupling time-dependent surface and subsurface ground thermal conditions in characteristic alpine materials (bedrock, ice-rich debris, blocky debris and finegrained deposits) constitute main challenges (S. Bircher, E. Frey, M. Panz, S. Gruber, S. Hanson, J. Noetzli, M. Hoelzle).
Geophysical measurements as well as mechanical probing of the active layer were used during a Spanish field campaign to enhance understanding of permafrost distribution and characteristics on the Antarctic islands of Livingston and Deception. This prepared a later drilling campaign and the establishment of a S-CALM site. Rock temperature monitoring instruments were installed (C. Hauck, S. Gruber, G. Vieira, J Blanco, M. Ramos, M. Hoelzle).
Dani Vonder Mühll (Daniel.VonderMuehll@SystemsX.ch)