A.-L. Ahumada, G. Ibáñez Palacios and S. Páez (Fundación Miguel Lillo, Tucumán) continue their research of cryogenic environments and rockglaciers of the Sierra de Aconquija (Province of Tucumán) and Sierra de Santa Victoria (Provinces of Salta and Jujuy). They have registered 256 active and 67 inactive rockglaciers at Aconquija and located their limit of activity at 4300 m a.s.l. approximately. The research group has also started investigations at the Nevados de Cachi (Province of Jujuy). A.-L. Aumada was invited to hold a lecture on global warming at the Academy of Science in Buenos Aires. Together with other experts (e.g. D. Trombotto), she worked as advisor for the elaboration of an Argentine Law for the protection of glaciers and rock glaciers.

A. Brenning and X. Bodin (University of Waterloo, Canada) continued the geodetic monitoring of rock glaciers and thermokarst-affected massive ice in the Andes of Santiago/Chile in 2008/09. In addition to differential GPS measurements initiated in 2004, they used terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) on rockglaciers for the first time in the Andes. Additionally, ground surface temperatures are being monitored at a wide range of locations for statistical analysis.

Permafrost research in Austria in 2009 was carried out by an increasing number of experienced and younger scientists. The University of Innsbruck group of K. Krainer in cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology (E. Brückl, H. Hausmann), the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Salzburg/ZAMG Salzburg (M. Staudinger, C. Riedl) and the Geological Survey of Austria (A. Römer) continued working on the project Permafrost in Austria. At the study area Krummgampental, Kaunertal (Ötztal Alps) permafrost mapping was continued on unconsolidated sediments (rock glacier, moraines, talus slopes) using a 12 channel seismic recording system with continuous recording modus. Interpretations of velocity-depth functions from 1D-diving wave tomography, 2D seismic refraction analyses and BTS-temperatures were evaluated for permafrost detection. A structural investigation was conducted with GPR (low frequency antennas/15&35MHz). At the study area Sonnblick the observation of P- and S-wave velocity field variations and seismic tomography using 15 borehole geophones was applied.

The Canadian permafrost community has been busy this past year with IPY projects and other activities including organization of the Sixth Canadian Permafrost Conference. This report presents some highlights of ongoing research and other activities.

Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP-Canada) – A Canadian Contribution to the International Polar Year – S. Smith, A. Lewkowicz and C. Burn

This collaborative project led by S. Smith (Geological Survey of Canada), A. Lewkowicz (University of Ottawa) and C. Burn (Carleton University) has made significant progress on its objectives to establish new permafrost monitoring sites to address gaps in the existing long-term monitoring network. As reported last year over 80 new boreholes were added. In 2009 additional sites were established in Nunavut communities, along an elevation transect at Eureka and in the Yukon with the most recent borehole drilled at Mt. McIntyre. Permafrost thermal data have been collected for the IPY period (2007-2009) from most new sites as well as the long-term sites. These data are currently being compiled to produce a ‘snapshot’ of ground thermal conditions that will provide an improved baseline against which to measure change. The Canadian snapshot database will contribute to the larger international database. The Canadian team will be active in preparation of a special issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes that will present initial IPY results. Canadians and their international colleagues met in October 2009 in Ottawa to develop the special issue. The snapshot database and the special journal issue will be disseminated at the IPY early science conference in June 2010.

Climate warming and enhanced anthropogenic activities have caused, are causing, and will continue to cause degradation of frozen ground in China, resulting in the destabilization of existing cold-regions infrastructures. These problems have been embodied in the field by increasing damage or failure of engineering structures, by frequent outbreaks of construction-induced frost hazards, and by increasing challenges for frozen-ground engineers and scientists. The most urgent issues are probably the retrofitting of existing infrastructures to adapt to changing climate and rising expectations in the level of design of future infrastructures to adapt to changing or changed frozen-ground conditions and upgraded construction standards.

In 2009, permafrost activities in China mainly included projects and programs funded and conducted by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) and National Science Foundation, as well as continuing studies on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Highway and Expressway, and the China-Russia Oil Pipeline in Northeastern China.

The Danish contribution for 2009 concentrates on on-going permafrost research presented on the NUUK CLIMATE DAYS 25.-27. August 2009 being a scientific activity related to COP15 – UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. It attracted 145 participants from 16 nations with contributions related to “Changes in the Greenland Cryosphere”.

Mr K. Kleist, prime minister of Greenland, welcomed the Conference. Key note talk was given by Director K. Erb (US National Science Foundation): “Greenland research: Key to global climate research”. A permafrost overview was presented by Professor V. Romanovsky (University of Alaska Fairbanks – UAF): “State and fate of permafrost in the northern hemisphere”.  Local climate monitoring was covered by Dr K. H. Svendsen (ASIAQ): “Greenland Survey, ASIAQ, a potential partner in climate change investigations” and by Professor S. Rysgaard (Greenland Climate Research Centre) with examples of long term climate monitoring programs from the research stations at Zackenberg and Nuuk .

Long-time IPA’s Finnish representative Professor Matti Seppälä (Department of Geography, University of Helsinki) retired in the end of September 2009. Professor Seppälä has studied periglacial landforms and processes on both hemispheres and over four decades. Nevertheless, he has promised to continue his scientific journey in future. On the behalf of the permafrost community, I wish you Matti very pleasant and active retirement!

In northern Finland, field work for Nordic project ‘Permafrost observatory in the Nordic Arctic: sensitivity and feedback mechanisms of thawing permafrost’ (2009–10) (Finnish participant J. Hjort from the Department of Geography, University of Helsinki) was conducted in Vaisjeaggi palsa mire close to the Kevo research station. The main objectives of this project are to establish a permafrost monitoring network based on existing Nordic research stations and key research sites for assessing the effects of climate change on the permafrost environment and secondly to provide comparable data and new insight from these sites on the sensitivity and feedback mechanisms of thawing permafrost. In addition, the project ‘Spatial modelling of periglacial processes under environmental change’ (2008–2010) (J. Hjort and M. Luoto and M. Marmion both from the University of Oulu, Department of Geography) continued.

A. Decaulne, CNRS UMR6042 Geolab, Clermont-Ferrand, France, pursues researches coupling geomorphic dynamics occurring on slopes (mostly snow avalanches and debris flows) and dendrogeomorphology in Iceland, in collaboration with Þ. Sæmundsson (Natural Research Centre of Northwestern Iceland, Sauðárkrókur) and Ó. Eggertsson (Iceland Forest Service, Research Branch, Mogilsá). Field work was done on this topic during the summer 2009 in Northern Iceland. For comparison, two other sites were investigated in Nordfjord, Norway, in collaboration with A. A. Beylich and K. Laute (Geological Survey of Norway, Trondheim). Results obtained during the recent studies were presented during the 7th International Conference on Geomorphology IAG/AIG, held in Melbourne in July 2009, and during the Working group SEDIBUD Workshop held in Kingston, Canada, in October 2009.

Research is also carried out on a glacier system of Svalbard since 2006. The objective of Hydro-sensor-FLOWS project (IPY#16) is to investigate the hydrology of the Austrelovenbre Glacier basin (Brogger peninsula) by continuous monitoring the space and time dynamics over a 4-years period (2007-2010). The project is coordinated by M. Griselin (UMR Thema) and C. Marlin (UMR IDES) in association with GEODE (Pau) and FEMTO (Besançon). The main objective is to improve our understanding of the system reactivity to contemporary climatic fluctuations. Different methods are used to study the glacier and its hydrology and its dynamics: image loggers (satellites and automatic cameras on the ground), loggers recording climatic data, air temperature at 20 locations on the basin and hydro-geochemical data.

At the University of Bonn, the research project SORP (Sensitivity of Rock Permafrost to regional climate change), which is part of the DFG-bundle SPCC, is centered on rock permafrost monitoring and permafrost induced rock wall instabilities. S. Verleysdonk started her Ph.D. thesis within the project with field sites in the German (Zugspitze) and Swiss Alps (Turtmann Valley and Piz Corvatsch). S. Bledow and D. Funk installed extensometer measurements at the Zugspitze and are carrying out shear tests on thawing cleft material as well as stability modeling based on empirical data. Further research focused on the relationship between summer snow cover and rock permafrost detected by refraction seismics (D. Dräbing, Turtmann Valley). M. Krautblatter discussed patterns of multiannual aggradation of permafrost in rock walls with and without hydraulic interconnectivity as well as temperature-calibrated imaging of seasonal changes in permafrost rock walls by quantitative electrical resistivity tomography at the Zugspitze (Krautblatter et al., acc.). Within the sub-project “Monitoring and process analysis of permafrost creep and failure in changing temperature regimes” (I. Gärtner), kinematics of several rockglaciers in the Valais and Grisons were quantified combining terrestrial and remote sensing methods. Together with ground surface temperature monitoring as well as geophysical soundings these data aid in investigating rockglacier dynamics.

The activities of the Italian permafrost communities are going on both in the Alps and in Antarctica. In Antarctica, within the project “Permafrost and Climate Change II”, M. Guglielmin (Uninsubria), N. Cannone (Univ. Ferrara), S. Favero-Longo and F. Baio (Sogetec) participated to a campaign at Rothera and Signy Stations in cooperation and with the logistical support of the British Antarctic Survey. In this campaign a new 30 m deep borehole was instrumented and included in the ANTPAS and TSP networks. Analyses of the effects of vegetation on the active layer thermal regime and on CO2 fluxes were carried out. Additionally, the permafrost monitoring stations and the ice-wedge monitoring stations in Victoria Land were inspected and maintained.

The research on weathering processes in cryotic Antarctic environment continued through a cooperation between University of Ferrara (N. Cannone), University of Turin (S. Favero-Longo, R. Piervittori) and Insubria University (M. Guglielmin) enhancing the role of bioweathering in the formation of  weathering features like tafoni.

In the Japanese archipelago, a permafrost study on the Fuji volcano (3776 m a.s.l., MAAT= −6°C), which was started last year, was re-designed because of an unexpected high ground temperature that was monitored in two 3-m deep boreholes at the summit area (A. Ikeda, G. Iwahana, T. Sueyoshi, K. Harada, R. Nishii and H. Arai).

In the southern Japanese Alps, an automatic camera has visually recorded movements of surface stones, data which were combined with records of frost heave, soil temperature and moisture to explore the detailed dynamics of solifluction features (N. Matsuoka). Radiocarbon dating of relict rock glaciers around Mt. Ainodake (MAAT= −2°C) indicated the advance of the rock glaciers from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Late Glacial (A. Ikeda and R. Nishii).

Several overseas projects are also going on. In Svalbard, a monitoring campaign is being continued in order to understand the dynamics of ice- and soil-wedge polygons, mudboils and a polar rock glacier with a variety of methods (N. Matsuoka, T. Watanabe), in collaboration with UNIS (H.H. Christiansen) and the University of Oslo (O. Humlum). Detailed (2D and 3D) geophysical sounding was used to detect subsurface frost wedge structures under non-sorted polygons and to illustrate temporal variation in the subsurface moisture regime (T. Watanabe).