Austrian permafrost researchers have been active in the year 2011. Since the foundation of the Austrian Permafrost Working Group in October 2010, the national committee of IPA-Austria consists of A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer (Uni. Graz and TU Graz), G.K. Lieb (Uni. Graz, K. Krainer (Uni. Innsbruck), L. Schrott (Uni.Salzburg) and H. Hausmann (Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics/ZAMG Vienna and TU Vienna).
The national permafrost project permAfrost – Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, was successfully continued. General information about the project consortium and participating partners was given in the national report of 2010. The permAfrost project is a first step establishing a nationwide permafrost monitoring program in Austria with a running period of three years.
The University of Salzburg group of L. Schrott continued to conduct permafrost research within the projects permAfrost (WP3000), MOREXPERT and permalp.at. permAfrost (WP3000) focuses on permafrost-glacier interactions in the Austrian Alps at the two test sites Kitzsteinhorn and the glacier Goldbergkees (J.-C. Otto).
The MOREXPERT project (I. Hartmeyer, M. Keuschnig, L. Schrott), carried out in cooperation with alpS (Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Technologies, Innsbruck), is initiating a new long-term monitoring site for mountain permafrost at the Kitzsteinhorn (3.204 m a.s.l.). In 2011 air flush rotary drilling works were completed (5 boreholes, 20-30m deep). In 2012 all boreholes will be equipped with a new, purpose-built system for borehole temperature measurement developed by GEODATA Inc. In addition 20 shallow boreholes (10-80cm deep) were drilled to measure near-surface rock temperatures. To investigate subsurface thermal changes, two automatically logging ERT-arrays were installed. In 2012 further shallow boreholes will be drilled and a third permanent ERT array will be established (Fig. 1).
Air flush rotary drilling of a 30m deep borehole at the Kitzsteinhorn, Hohe Tauern Range, during early autumn 2011 at about 3000 m a.s.l. Photograph provided by Ingo Hartmeyer.
The permalp.at project (J.-C. Otto, L. Schrott, M. Rosner, M. Rupprechter) is concluded by the end of 2011 including a Web GIS. As one product, a new permafrost distribution map of the Hohe Tauern Range will be published in cooperation with F. Keller (Academia Engiadina, Switzerland).
ZAMG Salzburg (C. Riedl) and ZAMG Vienna (H. Hausmann) – in cooperation with the group of K. Krainer – finished the ÖAW project Permafrost in Austria at Hoher Sonnblick (3106m). At the Sonnblick summit data from 4 boreholes (3 temperature, 1 extensometer) and 35 ground surface temperature sensors were evaluated and seismic tomography (TU-Vienna, H. Hausmann, E. Brückl) was conducted. The borehole measurements indicate the existence of deep-reaching processes which could affect the long-term stability of the crest. Furthermore, the temporal changes of the rock walls were documented with TLS (S. Seren) and ground surface temperature measurements were continued at the Wintergasse site within the project PERSON (W. Schöner, ZAMG Vienna). The Alpine Space Project PermaNET was also finished. One major result was the 3 dimensional modeling of the permafrost distribution at the Sonnblick summit.
Graz and Leoben
The group of permafrost researcher in the Federal Province of Styria increased in size and consists in 2011 of people from the University of Graz (A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, G.K. Lieb, O. Sass, M. Rode, G. Winkler, M. Pauritsch), Graz University of Technology (M. Avian, V. Kaufmann, A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer), Joanneum Research, Graz (A. Bauer), and University of Leoben (E. Niesner, B. Kühnast). Two major projects - ALPCHANGE and PermaNET - were officially finalised in 2011.
permAfrost (WP4000) was successfully continued. permAfrost (WP4000) aims to continue and improve research in the field of kinematics, volumetric and thermal monitoring of rock glaciers and permafrost and to understand the inner structure of three rock glaciers in the Hohe Tauern Range (Weissenkar, Hinteres Langtalkar, Dösen). WP4000 consists of four different sub-working packages. M. Avian carried out terrestrial laserscanning (TLS) campaigns at the Hinteres Langtalkar Rock Glacier (almost continuous annual record of TLS data since 2001) and at the rock fall areas Mittlerer and Hoher Burgstall, near Pasterze Glacier. A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer is in charge of the permafrost monitoring network at the three mentioned rock glacier sites as well as several additional permafrost monitoring sites (established during the ALPCHANGE and PermaNET projects) in the Hohe and Niedere Tauern Ranges. During 2011, the existing network was maintained and partly upgraded.
All three mentioned rock glaciers were investigated by geophysical measurements (E. Niesner, B. Kühnast). The field campaign started in August and lasted till September 2010. Multielectrode Geoelectric Tomographie (ERT) with up to 120 electrodes and passive electromagnetic measurements in the Very Low Frequency (VLF) band were applied. The Austrian Army supported the transport of the field equipment by helicopters.
Furthermore within permAfrost (WP4000), V. Kaufmann and his team continued the annual geodetic measurements at the three rock glaciers Weissenkar, Hinteres Langtalkar, Dösen as reported last year. Furthermore, a simple technique for detecting and measuring fast moving rock glaciers over a wide area based on high-resolution orthoimages provided by geobrowsers, such as Google Maps and Microsoft Bing Maps, was elaborated and tested by V. Kaufmann. Two Bachelor theses (Institute of Navigation, TU Graz) were aimed at applying low-cost GPS receivers for precise measuring of rock glacier flow velocities. Practical experiments were carried out at rock glacier Leibnitzkopf (Schober group, Hohe Tauern range).
A new project entitled Water Resources of Relict Rock Glaciers thematically focusing on ground water storage and discharge dynamics of relict rock glaciers in the Niedere Tauern Range, Styria was initiated in autumn 2010 (G. Winkler, A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, M. Pauritsch). On the regional scale, this project will elaborate a hydrogeological-focussed rock glacier inventory of the Niedere Tauern Range, Styria (ca. 2500 km ²). On a local scale, two rock glaciers will get intensively studied regarding hydrogeological characteristics of the drainage basins, flow and transport characteristics of the alpine acquifer, numerical hydraulic modelling as well as thermal modelling of the rock glacier bodies.
The project proposal ROCKING ALPS (ROCKfall and weathering in the eastern ALPS) is currently in review (O. Sass, M. Rode). In this project it is intended to investigate the governing factors of frost weathering and rockfall in alpine regions by applying 2D-geoelectrics, high-resolution moisture monitoring, rock moisture modeling, infrared photography and detailed rockfall mapping using TLS. Research is already carried out at the three sites Gesäuse, Dachstein and Kitzsteinhorn. At the third study site, research is carried out in close cooperation with the MOREXPERT project mentioned above.
Finally, in the Untertal valley near Schladming, Styria, multi-method geophysical profiling was carried out for investigating permafrost lenses in a rockfall boulder deposit. Several frozen areas were detected at a possibly record-breaking (in Austria) low elevation of c. 900 m a.s.l.. The temperature anomaly (chimney effect) is reflected at the surface by an unique peat bog vegetation.
The University of Innsbruck group of K. Krainer continued working on two projects funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. These are Permafrost in Austria and permAfrost (WP5000). Both projects deal with the study of the impact of changes in the thermal regime of alpine permafrost on melting processes, discharge patterns and water chemistry at test sites in the Ötztal Alps (Lazaunalm, Kaunertal, Hochebenkar, Reichenkar), Samnaungruppe, Stubai Alps and Verwallgruppe by using a combination of geological/geomorphological, hydrogeological (jointly with TU-Vienna: G. Blöschl), geophysical (jointly with TU-Vienna: E. Brückl, H. Hausmann), geochemical, meteorological and climatological methods.
Three ice-cores drilled at two rock glaciers (Lazaun in the Schnals Valley and and Weissbrunn in the Ulten Valley), in South Tyrol, Italy, in September 2010 are studied regarding ice content, chemical composition of the ice (anions, cations, heavy metals), palynology, age, stable isotopes (PermaNET project). Another objective of the K. Krainer group is the ongoing compilation of a rock glacier inventory of Tyrol.
The University of Innsbruck group of J. Stötter continued to carry out research in the permAfrost (C. Klug, M. Spross, J. Stötter) and C4AUSTRIA projects (E. Bollmann, R. Sailer, J. Stötter). Both projects mainly focus on the detection and quantification of permafrost degradation in the Western Austrian Alps using ALS and TLS as well as photogrammetrical analysis. Detailed investigations are carried out on rock glaciers, frozen debris material and rock walls. Expected results are spatio-temporal quantifications of rock glacier melt rates and creep velocities as well as an evaluation of the potential of the applied remote sensing technologies to detect permafrost degradation outside rock glaciers. Furthermore, geophysics, ground temperature monitoring are applied. These activities are done in cooperation with the alpS (see above) project SHIFT.
In 2010 the project MALS (G. Kaser, L. Rieg, R. Sailer, J. Stötter) was initiated. The project aims to detect, evaluate and interpret surface elevation changes of glaciers and rockglaciers in the Ortler Group and the Southern Ötztal Alps (Schnalstal) from repeated ALS campaigns and geophysical techniques.
The University of Innsbruck group at the Institute of Ecology (K. Koinig, E. Ilyashuk, B. Ilyashuk, G. Köck, R. Lackner, R. Psenner) studies the influence of melting permafrost on lakes with a focus on aquatic species and sediment cores. The group obtained a sediment core from a lake affected by a melting rock glacier in summer 2010. The sediment core covers the whole Holocene and it is aimed to compare melting during the current warm period with similar warm periods in the past.
A joint research group consisting of people from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, and University of Innsbruck, Department of Meteorology and Geophysics and “Alpine Forschungstelle Obergurgl/AFO” (J. Abermann, M. Stocker-Waldhuber, L. Hartl, A. Fischer) monitors flow velocity and surface elevation change at the rock glacier Äusseres Hochebenkar.
ZAMG Vienna (W. Schöner, H. Hausmann), ZAMG Salzburg (C. Riedl), the University of Salzburg (J. Otto) and the Geological Survey of Austria/GBA (R. Supper) are planning a project concerning better understanding the permafrost distribution and reaction on climate change on Sonnblick. The borehole measurements (temperature, seismic tomography, extensometer), geoelectric monitoring, ground surface temperature monitoring (as described further above) shall be continued and permafrost mapping is planned.
GBA (B. Jochum, R. Supper, D. Ottowitz, S. Pfeiler, S. Kauer, A. Römer) carried out permafrost related research applying geoelectrics. From October 2010 until July 2011 a geoelectric monitoring profile was installed in the vicinity of Mölltaler Glacier in 2760 m a.s.l. The used instrument GEOMON4D is a continuous, stand alone, DC resistivity monitoring instrument, a proprietary development by the GBA (Fig. 2). Due to very high electrical resistivities, the measured potential difference usually exceeds the maximum resolution of the input channel. Therefore the instrument was adapted to a constant current source with an automatically adjustable electrical voltage for current input and a high resolution current sensor. The geoelectric profile is measured throughout the project period once a day and the results are sent the next day per email. Starting October 2011 the line was moved next to Kitzsteinhorn in 2940m. These measurements are carried out in cooperation with the University of Salzburg and alpS (M. Keuschnig) which installed temperature probes along the profile and numerous in the surrounding area. The EU FP7 Project SAFELAND and the Austrian Science Fund project TEMPEL funded these measurements.
Permanent geoelectric monitoring profile installed between October 2010 and July 2011 in the vicinity of Mölltaler Glacier at 2760 m a.s.l. The used instrument GEOMON4D is a continuous, stand alone, DC resistivity monitoring instrument developed by the Geological Survey of Austria. Photograph provided by Birgit Jochum.
High latitude permafrost research is currently undertaken at the Vienna University of Technology (A. Bartsch). A. Bartsch is coordinating the DUE Permafrost project and responsible for the management of remote sensing and upscaling tasks in the new FP7 project PAGE21 (lead by AWI Potsdam, Germany). This project is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) Data User Element (DUE) program, which is a component of the Earth Observation Envelope Program (EOEP). The objective of this project is to establish a monitoring system based on satellite data with focus on the high latitudes. The group around A. Bartsch is responsible for implementation of a surface status (freeze/thaw) algorithm, near surface soil moisture, annual tundra lake monitoring and the data portal. The project is close to completion and will feed into the FP7 project PAGE21.
Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer (email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org)