The year 2012 was a very active and successful year in permafrost research and activities in Austria. This positive situation is also very much linked to the collaboration of the different members of the Austrian Permafrost Working Group which was found in October 2010 consisting of A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, G.K. Lieb (both Graz), K. Krainer (Innsbruck), L. Schrott (Salzburg) and H. Hausmann (Vienna).
In the first part of this report I want to list and describe general permafrost activities, events and publications of permafrost researcher in Austria in a chronological order. In the second part I will summarise permafrost research activities carried out by the different relevant research groups in Austria based on brief reports from the individual groups.
Part 1: General permafrost activities in AustriaIn March a special issue in Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography (Volume 94, Issue 1) was published entitled Concepts and implications of environmental change and human impact: Studies from Austrian geomorphological research guest-edited by M. Keiler (Vienna, now Bern), A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer and J.C. Otto (Salzburg). This special issue contains ten contributions; four of them are related to permafrost research in Austria. For details please visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/geoa.2012.94.issue-1/issuetoc.
Part 2: Reports from the different Austrian permafrost research groups
The nation-wide permafrost project permAfrost – Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, is now in its third year. The Institute of Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (IMR) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences coordinates permAfrost (M. Rutzinger, A. Borsdorf). General information about the project consortium and participating partners was given in the national report of 2010. This permAfrost project is a first initiative to join permafrost-research forces in Austria aiming to establish a nationwide permafrost monitoring program.
The University of Salzburg group of L. Schrott continued to carry out permafrost research within the projects permAfrost (WP3000) and MOREXPERT. Furthermore the permalp.at project has been concluded by 2012. Please refer to the national reports of 2010 and 2011 regarding background and aims of these three projects.
In the MOREXPERT project (I. Hartmeyer, M. Keuschnig, L. Schrott) – carried out in cooperation with alpS (Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Technologies, Innsbruck) and with its study area at the Kitzsteinhorn (3204 m a.s.l.) – instrumentation of various monitoring sites was continued. In 2012 two boreholes (20 m deep) were equipped with a custom-built system for borehole temperature measurement developed by GEODATA Inc. The three remaining boreholes (30 m deep) will be instrumented in 2013. The network of shallow boreholes (10-80 cm deep) at the Kitzsteinhorn summit has been extended to a total number of 30. Two permanently installed ERT profiles by the Geological Survey of Austria (see below) continued to deliver information on ground thermal conditions.
The permalp.at project (L. Schrott, J.-C. Otto, F. Keller, M. Rosner, M. Rupprechter) has been finally concluded by 2012 including a Web GIS application. The main results of this project are published as one paper in the special issue of the Austrian Journal of Earth Sciences mentioned above. As one product, a new permafrost distribution map of the Hohe Tauern Range has been published in cooperation with F. Keller (Academia Engiadina, Switzerland). The permAfrost (WP3000) was successfully continued at study site Kitzsteinhorn (J.-C. Otto) applying BTS und ERT measurements in order to understand permafrost conditions in recently deglaciated glacier forefields.
The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) Salzburg (C. Riedl) and ZAMG Vienna (H. Hausmann, W. Schöner) continued their research at Hoher Sonnblick (3106 m a.s.l.). For details on these projects refer to earlier national reports.
The Geological Survey of Austria, Department of Geophysics (D. Ottowitz, B. Jochum, R. Supper, S. Pfeiler, J-H. Kim) continued the geoelectrical monitoring at the Magnetköpfl (a peak slightly lower than the above mentioned Kitzsteinhorn) at an elevation of 2940 m a.s.l. using the monitoring system Geomon4D. With the exception of three months during winter (January to end of March) the system worked without interruption with a measuring frequency of once a day where a complete geoelectric section consisting of 2500 data points was recorded. The performed geoelectrical monitoring is part of the TEMPEL project.
Graz and Leoben
The group of permafrost researcher in the Federal Province of Styria continued its mountain permafrost research in the Hohe Tauern Range, Niedere Tauern Range and in the Northern Calcareous Alps. By 2012 colleagues 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 (A. Bauer, R. Morawetz), and University of Leoben (E. Niesner, B. Kühnast) were involved in relevant activities. Unfortunately E. Niesner passed away in April this year. The main nationally and internationally funded projects are permAfrost (WP4000), Water Resources of Relict Rock Glaciers, and ROCKING ALPS. For details about these projects please see the national reports 2010 and 2011.
permAfrost (WP4000) was successfully continued by A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, M. Avian, V. Kaufmann, and B. Kühnast at three rock glaciers (Weissenkar – see Fig. 1 –, Hinteres Langtalkar, Dösen), one active rock fall site (Mittlerer and Hoher Burgstall, near Pasterze Glacier), and a marginally permafrost site (Hintereggen Valley) applying different continuous monitoring techniques, remote sensing, geodesy, terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and geophysics. All mentioned sites area located in the Hohe Tauern Range. At the rock glacier Hinteres Langtalkar an ongoing fast movement of the lower part as well as distinct patterns of mass shifting on the rock glacier's surface was observed by TLS and geodetic measurements. Rock fall events at two rock faces at the Burgstall area were detected. Furthermore, the initial geodetic measurements of 2010 and 2011 at Leibnitzkopf rock glacier (also Hohe Tauern Range) by V. Kaufmann were continued. A maximum flow velocity of 2.76 m/year was measured at this rock glacier. Increase in mean annual flow velocity at all four rock glaciers mentioned in this paragraph is in conformity and amounts to 5-16% compared to 2010/11.
Research within the project Water Resources of Relict Rock Glaciers was continued by G. Winkler, A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, and M. Pauritsch in the Styrian part of the Niedere Tauern Range. At a regional scale, an inventory of rock glacier catchments was established and a new rock glacier inventory for parts of the Federal Province of Styria was started to elaborate using airborne laser scanning (ALS) data. At a local scale the study focuses on the two rock glaciers Dürrtal and Schöneben where hydrogeological, climate, ground thermal, geophysical (see Fig. 2) and remote sensing-based research is carried out in order to increase the understanding of rock glaciers – particularly relict rock glaciers – in the alpine water cycle; a widely unknown field.
The ROCKING ALPS project (M. Rode., O. Sass) was approved earlier this year. In this project 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 rock fall mapping using TLS are investigated in the Dachstein area, Northern Calcareous Alps. Since summer 2012, the measurement setup is installed and monitors the temperature and moisture in the rock wall to 30cm depth. Additional rock moisture simulations were carried out at Mt. Sonnblick which was mentioned further above.
The IMR of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Innsbruck coordinates the permAfrost project as mentioned above (M. Rutzinger, A. Borsdorf). Furthermore, the IMR monitors permafrost in the Schrankar (Stubaier Alps, Tyrol) by running temperature loggers and a climate station and conducting BTS-measurements once a year.
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) – The Impact of Climate Change on Alpine Permafrost. The analysis of three ice-cores from two different rock glaciers (Lazaun and Weissenbrunn) in South Tyrol is onoing. For background and aims of both projects above and the ice-core analysis activities refer to the national reports of 2010 and 2011. Furthermore, the Krainer group is involved in the two projects PERMAQUA and C4Austria. Within the framework of the new Interreg IV project PERMAQUA, U. Nickus, H. Thies, K. Krainer, R. Tessadri, E. Schiestl, and V. Schmidt focuse on the impact of alpine permafrost on the chemical and biological properties of high alpine surface waters. Hydrological measurements and geological mapping of distinct rock glacier catchments in Tyrol accomplish the work of this group.
The University of Innsbruck group of J. Stötter continued to carry out research in the permAfrost-WP6000 (C. Klug, M. Spross, J. Stötter) and C4AUSTRIA projects (E. Bollmann, R. Sailer, J. Stötter). The developed ALS-based analytical methods are currently applied to more than 300 rock glaciers in the Austrian Alps. In addition to the remote sensing approaches, geophysical analyses (O. Sass, previously Innsbruck now Graz) are carried out at different study sites (e.g. Rofenberg, Lazaun rock glacier) in the Tyrolean Alps. These results and ground temperature measurements will be used to model permafrost distribution in the alpS project SHIFT (S. Mitterer-Hoinkes) jointly carried out with the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, Switzerland. Finally, the MALS project was successfully continued in 2012. For project backgrounds see earlier reports.
The University of Innsbruck group at the Institute of Ecology (K. Koinig, E. Ilyashuk, B. Ilyashuk, G. Köck, R. Lackner, R. Psenner) continues their studies on the influence of melting permafrost on lakes with a focus on aquatic species and sediment cores. The group obtained an additional sediment core from a reference lake and is currently processing samples from all sediment cores and from the recent aquatic samples.
Activities from the ZAMG group in Vienna (W. Schöner, H. Hausmann) on Mt. Sonnblick as well as from the Geological Survey of Austria, Department of Geophysics (D. Ottowitz, B. Jochum, R. Supper, S. Pfeiler, J-H. Kim) on Kitzsteinhorn were mentioned above.
High latitude permafrost research is continued at the Vienna University of Technology (A. Bartsch). The European Space Agency project DUE Permafrost – coordinated by A. Bartsch – has been completed within the first half of 2012. Satellite data have been collected, processed and added value products were made available on circumpolar scale via the PANGAEA repository and a project data portal. These datasets will contribute to the recently started FP7 project PAGE21 lead by AWI, Potsdam, Germany. Vienna University of Technology does continue research on land surface hydrology (seasonal thaw lake dynamics, soil moisture variability in tundra landscapes) from satellite data within this project. In summer 2012, the sites Kytalyk and Spasskaya Pad in Russia have been visited (by E. Högström) and data for validation of satellite data collected.