In respect to the 2011, an increase in public (Universities, Research Institutes, Regional bureaus) and private (Fundations, Societies) subjects involved in the lab and field activities can be observed in Italy, as well as the incoming of new enthusiastic researchers with different bias and expertise. So, many activities are in progress in the Italian magma of permafrost and periglacial research, along with initiatives to make more strengthened the cooperation between the different groups.

First of all, it is important to remember that in September 2011 is successfully ended the PermaNET project (Interreg Alpine-Space program) which had involved a lot of Italian partners. The project description and main products are available on the project's website ( Within PermaNET an alpine-wide Permafrost Distribution Map has been settled-up together with an alpine-wide Inventory of the Permafrost Evidences extended to several sectors of the Alps ( The maintenance of the Permafrost Evidences Inventory is managed by ARPA Valle d'Aosta (contact: Moreover a PermaNET documentary film was produced to introduce alpine permafrost, on going studies and monitoring activities in the Alps (

Eastern Alps
In the framework of PermeNET project, ARPAV-Arabba Avalanche Center (A. Cagnati, A. Crepaz) in collaboration with Regione Veneto-Direzione Geologia e Georisorse, Servizio Geologico (A. Galuppo, L. Magnabosco, V. Defendi), continued to monitor the periglacial environment of Piz Boè, in Veneto region, at an altitude of 2900 m a.s.l. An Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was installed for measuring air temperature, relative humidity, snow depth wind velocity and direction, incoming and outcoming radiation (short and longwave) and infrared surface temperature (see Figure); thermistor chain of 16 sensors was placed in a borehole of 30 m. In 2011 it revealed negative temperature below 9 m all over the year. In 2011 GST monitoring network (two dataloggers, one on the rock glacier the other on the bedrock) was improved, adding 19 dataloggers in the area around the rock glacier and near downstream lake (Lech Dlacé). Topographic/theodolite (ARPAV), and laser scan (CNR IRPI Padova and Torino-A. Pasuto, S. Frigerio, M. Mantovani, M. Baldo) surveys were carried out on the rock glacier, to investigate its displacement, and in the Lech Dlacé, to estimate water volume. During Summer 2011 water samples were collected every week in the shallow lake and in the inlet spring coming out from the rock glacier, in order to evaluate geochemical and isotopic characterization from the beginning of snowmelt season to the autumn (Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes–CNR, Venice-C. Barbante, J. Gabrieli). The seasonal snowpack as well as summer liquid precipitations are also sampled and analysed. All the samples are analysed for pH, conductivity, major ions, trace elements, heavy metals, rare earth elements (REE) and stable isotopes (δD, δ18O). Water temperature, level and conductivity dataloggers were placed in the lake.
The PhD R. Colucci tutored by M. Guglielmin (Insubria Univ) and Finocchiaro (Univ. Trieste) is continuing and the thermal regime of several ice caves and rock faces is started in the area of M. Canin where it has been established also an AWS to monitor the meteorological conditions of the site.



Piz Boè Automatic Weather Station

Central Alps
The Insubria University Research group (N. Cannone, M. Guglielmin, M. Dalle Fratte, F. Malfasi, A. Valentini, D. Bufalino) on permafrost and periglacial environments still going on the activities in the central Alps as elsewhere. The snow, permafrost and vegetation monitoring site of Foscagno where more than 70 points located within and outside the Foscagno rock glacier between 2300 and 2650 m asl is still going on after 6 years. In order to monitor the characteristics of this spring a new monitoring program of the water discharge has been implemented. Two boreholes within the rock glacier are still going on too as the GPS monitoring of the rock glacier dynamic with the cooperation of Milan University (C. D'Agata).
At Livigno (SO) it is continuing a programme of monitoring CO2 of fluxes in correspondence of two sites characterised by similar soils and vegetation types but with and without permafrost.
At the same site and on the Foscagno rock glacier a program to monitor the radon emissions with and without permafrost and with different types of soils and vegetation is also started.
In Trentino, several permafrost investigations undertaken in the framework of the Interreg Alpine-Space project “PermaNET” were completed. The activities were coordinated by the Geological Survey of the Autonomous Province of Trento (G. Zampedri, S. Cocco) with the collaboration of several universities (Pavia: R. Seppi and M. Zumiani; Padova: A. Carton; Trento: M. Dall’Amico and R. Rigon). In particular, a rock glacier inventory including intact and relict landforms was completed, as well as a list of sites to be included in the Permafrost Evidences Database of the whole Alps. Moreover, a local map of permafrost existence index was completed, using the statistical model and the criteria developed within the project. The monitoring activities undertaken within the project were also continued. These include: 1) BTS and GST measurements in several sites of the Ortles-Cevedale, Adamello-Presanella and Dolomiti mountain groups, for which a temperature dataset of two or three full years is now available; 2) borehole temperature measurements at the site of Cavaion (Ortles-Cevedale), where a 50 m deep borehole was drilled in bedrock at ca 2900 m asl, and close to the Alpine hut “Ai Caduti dell’Adamello” (Adamello-Presanella), where two years of data are now available for two 20 m deep boreholes drilled in highly fractured bedrock at ca 3000 m asl. Finally, the surface displacement of two active rock glaciers located in the Adamello-Presanella was investigated for the tenth consecutive year by means of topographic surveys, along with GST measurements carried out for the seventh consecutive year. In addition, one of the two rock glaciers (Maroccaro RG) was surveyed for the third time using terrestrial laser scanning.
conditions of the site.



Installation of a thermistor chain on rock face in the area of Mt Ortles

Numerous investigations were carried out within the PRIN 2008 project, under the coordination of the University of Padova (A. Carton) and with the support of the Strategic Project “Geological, morphological and hydrological processes: monitoring, modeling and impact in the North-Eastern Italy” (GEORISKS, Coordinator: R. Genevois). These activities are conducted in collaboration with other universities and institutes (University of Pavia: R. Seppi; University of Padova: L. Carturan, G. Dalla Fontana, T. Zanoner, A. Bondesan; INOGS Trieste: R. Francese). The study areas are located in the Ortles-Cevedale (Val de la Mare) and Dolomiti (Cima Uomo and Pordoi Pass). In the first area, the investigations consist in hydrological observations and extensive GST measurements conducted on several landforms (e.g. active and inactive rock glaciers, scree slopes, till deposits). In the Cima Uomo area, GST measurements and geophysical and topographic surveys are in progress on a rock glacier that is developing from the Little Ice Age moraines of a small cirque glacier. Near the Pordoi Pass (Vauz catchment), investigations were started on periglacial landforms in order to: i) studying the processes involved in the slow movement of the ground and in the development of the landforms of the area, and ii) understanding the role of water circulation inside the slope. GST measurements and geophysical and topographic surveys are in progress.
The universities of Padova (D. Penna, L. Carturan, G. Dalla Fontana and A. Carton), Pavia (R. Seppi) and Venezia (J. Gabrieli) begun hydrological investigations on a small permafrost-dominated catchment in Val de la Mare (Ortles-Cevedale). The investigations aim at understanding the role of permafrost in this kind of catchments and are focused on the streamflow regime using stable isotopes as tracers. The study is carried out in the framework of the IAEA-coordinated research project “Use of environmental isotopes in assessing water resources in snow, glacier, and permafrost dominated areas under changing climatic conditions”.
The Museum of Science of Trento (M. Gobbi and V. Lencioni) in cooperation with the Universities of Milano (M. Caccianiga and C. Compostella) and Pavia (R. Seppi), is currently investigating several glacial and periglacial areas of Trentino, in order to compare the arthropod (mainly carabid beetles and spiders) and vegetation assemblages inside and outside periglacial landforms. Two active rock glaciers located in the Ortles-Cevedale and Adamello-Presanella mountain group, and a debris covered glacier (Adamello-Presanella), with a total of about fifty sampling points, were selected. The main ongoing activities are to describe the plant and arthropod colonization patterns, and to test the effect of several environmental variables (e.g. physical, chemical and organic soil parameters) on the biodiversity and on morphological and physiological species adaptive responses. A total of three master theses were completed (tutors: M. Cacciniga, M. Gobbi and C. Compostella), while one is ongoing.

Specifically in the South Tyrol, the main activities were carried out by the Office for Geology and Building materials testing (V. Mair, K. Lang, D. Tonidandel) from the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. Concerning the financing of the monitoring and studying of permafrost phenomena in 2011 there were some changes. From 2008 to the end of September 2011 the activities were mostly financed by the Alpine Space Interreg IV B project PermaNET. This project was coordinated by the Office for Geology and Building materials testing. Since the 1st of November 2011 a new Interreg IV A Italy-Austria project was launched. The main goals of this project are to maintain and expand the existing monitoring network and to study the chemical and biological properties of high mountain waters influenced by permafrost. The Office for Geology and Building materials testing is assuming the role of the lead partner in this project and is collaborating in the Ortles Ice Core project. This international project on the cryosphere of Mount Ortles, the highest elevation of the Eastern European Alps (3905 m asl), is currently underway with the coordination of the Ohio State University (P. Gabrielli, L. Thompson) and the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (R. Dinale) ( Within the project, investigations on permafrost are in progress, with the aim of study the thermal state of the ice-free areas of the massif and its evolution under changing climate conditions. The permafrost investigations are carried out by the Office for Geology and Building materials testing with the collaboration of the University of Pavia (R. Seppi). The ongoing activities include: i) ground surface temperature measurements performed in sites covered by debris using miniature data loggers; ii) temperature measurements of rock faces with different aspects performed with thermistors placed at three depths (10, 30 and 55 cm from the surface); iii) deep temperature measurements of a small ice-cap located on the “Hintergrat” ridge of Mount Ortles, in order to analyze the thermal state of the ice and at the contact between the glacier and the bedrock.
The main activities during 2011 in South Tyrol were in summary: i) data acquisition, maintenance and implementation of regional monitoring network (three boreholes trough two active rock glaciers equipped with thermistor chains and TDR cable, two boreholes in rock equipped with thermistor chain and extensometer chain), ii) surface-movement measurements of a rock glacier using DGPS, iii) installation of six thermistor chains on different rock faces (see Figure) installation of three thermistor chains through two glaciers, on the contact with the bedrock.

Western Alps
In the Valle d'Aosta Region, the monitoring and study of permafrost phenomena are carried out by the following institutions: Aosta Valley Autonomous Region bureaux (Geological Service, Environment Direction,, the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection - ARPA VdA (, the Fondazione Montagna Sicura - FondMS (, the University of Turin-DST (, NATRISK-LNSA (, National Research Council (Torino) - CNR-IRPI (, Politecnico di Torino-DITAG (, Politecnico di Torino–DISTR (

In cooperation with Milano University (C. Smiraglia, C. Milhacea and G. Diolaiuti) the monitoring of the rock faces thermal regime at Punta Helbronner (AO) and at Cima De Piazzi (3460 m asl; SO, is going on. Unfortunately, at Punta Helbronner is finished the monitoring of the permafrost thermal regime of the 64 m deep borehole in cooperation with the Funivie Monte Bianco because the borehole was destroyed in order to build the new cable car station (M. Guglielmin).
The university of Insubria group (leader M. Guglielmin) continued to cooperate with Arpa Piemonte (L. Paro) within Permanet Interreg project both to the management of the new network of 5 boreholes drilled last year and to the modelling of permafrost distribution and the calibration of this model through the electrical tomography and BTS measurements realized in several places distributed in all the Piemonte. In particular, Arpa Piemonte i) coordinated and concluded the Wp4 “Permafrost Monitoring Network” activities dedicated to establish the monitoring stations in the whole Alps (with the contribution of all project partners); ii) continued the maintenance of the permafrost monitoring stations in the Alps of Piemonte; iii) completed the draft application of the physical model in order to evaluate the potential distribution of permafrost in Piedmont Alps applying PERMACLIM model (Guglielmin et al., 2003), and carrying out two future scenarios analyzing the IPCC data; iv) continued BTS surveys in different site of the Piedmont Alps in order to evaluate the permafrost distribution (empirical and physical models validation); v) continued to analyze the interrelation between permafrost data and information regarding slope instability processes, using internal data from regional landslide database (S.I.Fra.P.), regional landslide monitoring network (Re.R.Co.M.F.) and satellite interferometry InSAR; vi) organized a public conference on climate change and its effects on the permafrost and on other components of the environment and the human health (Torino, June 2011); vii) participated with a stand at the 8th National Forum on Earth Sciences “Geoitalia 2011” (Torino, September 2011) in which two posters about Arpa’s activities on permafrost studies have been showed; vii) realized one booklet, one book and one video about some studies and results of the permafrost in Piedmont Alps (, for information and download).

The Maritime Alps are considered the southernmost permafrost environment of the Alps. Here, the University of Pisa (A. Ribolini) continued the surface ground temperature of some rock glaciers, and the acquisition of geophysical data (Electrical Resistivity and Ground Penetrating Radar). These activities were financed by the PRIN 2008 project. The monitoring of shallow ground temperature of Vei del Bouc rock glacier (Maritime Alps) is near to 10 years of continuous hourly recording, and the analysis of the fingerprint of the main climatic events occurred in last decade on the active layer of permafrost is running. An Electrical Resistivity Tomography prospection has carried out on a rock glacier in the southern sector of Mt Viso (Val Varaita). The data inversion showed a resistivity distribution coherent with the presence massive ice volumes near the surface, along with ice-rich and unfrozen sediments. This points out that here, as elsewhere in the Maritime Alps (e.g. Schiantala and Marinet rock glaciers), an interaction between former glacier and permafrost must be considered in the data interpretation. On this rock glacier, a 25 MHz Ground Penetrating Radar acquisition was performed (A. Ribolini, M. Spagnolo) in order to compare and contrast electrical resistivity distribution and radargrams.
A 200 MHz Ground Penetrating Radar acquisition (A. Ribolini, M. Bini) was undertaken on the Vei del Bouc rock glacier, where a long record of shallow ground temperature is available.
The campaign of boulders sampling from rock glaciers in the Maritime and Cothian Alps has continued with the aim to date the age of stabilization by means of the cosmogenic radionuclides methods (A. Ribolini, M. Spagnolo). This activity has been carried out within a project financed to the University of Aberdeen (M. Spagnolo, A. Ribolini) by SUERC (Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre)

In the framework of an international project aimed at the sea-level reconstruction during the Quaternary in the Argentinean Patagonia, the University of Pisa (A. Ribolini) studied several sand wedges intruding the continental series covering beach ridge deposits of the Marine Isotope Stage 5 (125.000 yrs BP) in St Jorge Gulf (see Figure). The grain-size of the material composing the fossil wedges, along with quartz grains characteristics at Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) analysis, allowed to propose an aeolian sand infilling of the frost cracks. The Optical Stimulated Luminescence age (20500 ± 2000 yrs BP) of the infilling sand and a C14 age (25780 ± 160 yrs BP) of carbonate crust evidenced that two generations of sand wedges have formed during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), separated by a phase of loess deposition and/or soil development. This demonstrates that during the LGM the Patagonia coast of St Jorge gulf underwent permafrost condition, with a lowering of MAAT at least of 12-14°C compared with today.

Figure. Polygons associated to LGM sand wedges intruded in marine deposits of MIS5.Patagonian coast, Argentina.



Polygons associated to LGM sand wedges intruded in marine deposits of MIS5.Patagonian coast, Argentina

In Antarctica two different expeditions were realized within the framework between the British Antarctic Survey and the Insubria university (M. Guglielmin, N. Cannone). One campaign was organized at Rothera station where the permafrost station (a 30 m deep borehole) is going on and where a season of measurements of CO2 fluxes on different permafrost conditions was realized. The second campaign was carried out at Signy Island where two different project were realized. The first (L. Paro, R. Gambillara, M. dalle Fratte) was focussed on the geophysical (electric tomography) investigations of several periglacial landforms such as gelifluction lobes, patterned grounds and sorted stripes, moss bank-lobes and on the analyses of the characteristics of the active layer and permafrost along a transect of deglaciation including all the Holocene. The second project (M. dalle Fratte) was the monitoring of CO2 fluxes on different permafrost and vegetation conditions. In addition the CALM grid was upgraded with a system to monitor also teh snow cover on a part of the grid.
A permafrost session (leaded by M. Guglielmin and G. Vieira) at the XI ISAES (International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences) was held in Edinburgh between 10 and 15 July with 17 posters and 12 oral presentations. The special issue on Geomorphology on the XXXI SCAR (Scientific Committee of Antarctic research) held in Buenos Aires on August 2010 is now in press.

Adriano Ribolini (