Different aspects of permafrost were investigated in 2014 in three areas: on Spitsbergen, in Poland and in northern Sweden.
On Spitsbergen, permafrost research during the spring and summer seasons of 2014 was conducted by research teams of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (in Petuniabukta, Billefjorden) and Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (on the Kaffiøyra Plain). The teams from both universities were supported by the National Science Center funding two projects Cryosphere reactions against the background of environmental changes in contrasting high-Arctic conditions on Svalbard (led by Grzegorz Rachlewicz) and Contemporary and historical changes in the Svalbard climate and topoclimates (led by Rajmund Przybylak).

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań organized two expeditions in spring and summer to Petuniabukta (central Spitsbergen) in 2014. During the expedition at the end of April, a ground penetrating radar survey was initiated in the conditions of freezing over of the active layer and with the occurrence of snow cover. The GPR profiling was continued from the beginning of July until mid-September along the same profile lines, followed by metal rod sounding over two 1-hectare plots, in different ground humidity conditions (Figure 1).


Figure 1: GPR profiling in Ebba valley (central Spitsbergen) in April 2014.

The plots were also equipped with ground temperature and moisture sensors mounted in boreholes to the depths of 1.5 and 0.2 m respectively. Ground surface properties were also assessed with the use of repeated thermo-vision imaging of the surveyed plots as well as of selected units and landforms in the neighborhood. Ground temperature and mechanical active layer depth measurements were a continuation of earlier observations, started at those plots in 2010, and since 2013 they have become a part of the above-mentioned project, together with geophysical investigations.

Observations of periglacial processes were also continued in the vicinity of Petuniabukta, in Ebba valley, and so was the dynamics of active layer detachments based on photogrammetry and plant (shrub) indexes (e.g. patterns of grow registered in annual ring structures). The activity of Aeolian processes was also monitored.

In Kaffiøyra, measurements of the active layer depth of permafrost, its thermal conditions, as well as its dynamics were carried out at the CALM project Site P2 (A-C) – located near the Nicolaus Copernicus University station (Fig. 2).

Poland-Fig.2Figure 2: The location of the Nicolaus Copernicus University Polar Station in Kaffiøyra (NW Spitsbergen) and CALM Site P2 of the active layer depth and ground temperature measurements. P2A – beach, P2B – tundra, and P2C – moraine (Photo by A. Araźny).

Furthermore, these investigations were also performed at two independent test sites (100x100 m) arranged according to the CALM project rules. At every test site a set of temperature and humidity sensors was installed at various depths (1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 cm for temperature and 5 and 10 cm for humidity) connected to data-loggers. The measurements of rate of the ground thawing and the thickness of the permafrost active layer at all sites were performed every 7-10 days in July and August. The ground temperature at Site P2 was measured at standard depths up to 1-2 m in the same three different ecotopes as it was in the case of the active layer depth measurements, i.e. the beach (P-2A), the tundra (P2-B), and the moraine (P-2C) (see Fig. 1). Continuous series of ground temperature measurements are available for the moraine and tundra (since 2006) and for the beach (since 2012). For this purpose, both mercury thermometers (readings taken every 6 hours, only in summer) and automatic temperature loggers (registration every 10 minutes, year-round) were installed at the measurement sites.

In addition, a new project started in the Kaffioyra region: "Cryosphere reactions against the background of environmental changes in contrasting high-Arctic conditions on Svalbard" (I. Sobota, P. Weckwerth and M. Nowak) in collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz University. A new automatic weather station (AWS) was installed in the vicinity of the ground temperature measurement site. The AWS was equipped with data loggers and sensors monitoring atmospheric pressure, air temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction, precipitation, and UV and total radiation.

In 2014, the Silesian University continued studies of glacier-permafrost relationships on the Storglaciaren in the Tarfala area in northern Scandinavia, initiated several years before by a team of researchers led by Dr. W. Dobinski. Until last year's results of GPR surveys conducted on the glacier and foreland included in this year's ERT survey carried out on the Storglaciaren forefield. A series of profiles of the different spacing of electrodes were performed. The profile length falls within in the range of 100 to 400 m. The results are likely to allow us to identify the different forms of permafrost occurrence around the Storglaciaren to a depth of tens of meters. The ERT method has also been used in Poland to seek local occurrences of permafrost on Babia Góra (1725 m a.s.l.).

Moreover, at a meeting in Evora in 2013 the IPA Council invited Dr. W. Dobiński to present his proposals for cooperation between the IPA and the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) in the field of glacier-permafrost relationships.

Permafrost investigations in the area of the UMCS Polar Station in Calypsobyen (Bellsund) were conducted during the 26th Polar Expeditions of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University to Spitsbergen.

The monitoring of the thickness of the active permafrost layer in 'P1 Calypsostranda point' was continued in summer 2014. Measurements of solifluction rate movements on the slopes of different exposures (Fig. 2) were also conducted in the following four places:

a. Wydrzyca Stream (Tyvjobekken) - N, NE, N exposures;

b. Calypsobyen – E exposure;

c. Renifer Stream (Rensdyrbekken) - W exposure;

d. Scott River (Scottelva) – NW exposures.

The measurements were carried out using GPS receivers (Leica System 500) and a reflectorless LEICA TCR407 Power total station in cooperation with the University of Science and Technology in Krakow. Six samples were taken on the slopes of the E, W, NE (Tyvjobekken) exposures (Fig. 1) using a core probe for geotechnical investigations. In addition, ground temperature was measured in the area of the meteorological station at the following depths: 0, 5.10, 15, 20, and 50 cm.

Poland-Fig.3Figure 3: Location of the studied slopes in Calypsostranda.

Publications of 2014:

Sobota I., Nowak M. 2014. Changes in the Dynamics and Thermal Regime of the Permafrost and Active Layer of the High Arctic Coastal Area in North‐West Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 96 (2), 227-240.

Report prepared by Rajmund Przybylak ( rp11@umk.pl)