23 Nov 2022
23 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Identifying mountain permafrost degradation by repeating historical ERT-measurements

Johannes Buckel1, Jan Mudler1, Rainer Gardeweg2, Christian Hauck2, Christin Hilbich2, Regula Frauenfelder3, Christof Kneisel4, Sebastian Buchelt4, Jan Henrik Blöthe5, Andreas Hördt1, and Matthias Bücker1 Johannes Buckel et al.
  • 1Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, 38106, Germany
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 3Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Sandakerveien 140, 0484 Oslo, Norway
  • 4Department of Physical Geography, Institute of Geography and Geology, University of Würzburg, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
  • 5Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography, University of Freiburg, 79085 Freiburg, Germany

Abstract. Ongoing global warming intensifies the degradation of mountainous permafrost. Permafrost thawing impacts landform evolution, reduces fresh water resources, enhances the potential of natural hazards, and thus has significant socio-economic impact. Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) has been widely used to map the ice-containing permafrost by its resistivity contrast compared to the surrounding non-frozen medium. This study aims to reveal the effects of ongoing climate warming on alpine permafrost by repeating historical ERT and analysing the temporal changes in the resistivity distribution. In order to facilitate the measurements, we introduce and discuss the employment of textile electrodes. These newly developed electrodes significantly reduce working effort, are easy to deploy on blocky surfaces, and yield sufficiently low contact resistances. We analyse permafrost evolution on three periglacial landforms (two rock glaciers and one talus slope) in the Swiss and Austrian Alps by repeating historical surveys after periods of 10, 12, and 16 years, respectively. The resistivity values have been significantly reduced in ice-poor permafrost landforms at all study sites. Interestingly, resistivity values related to ice-rich permafrost in the studied active rock glacier partly increased during the studied time period. To explain this apparently counterintuitive (in view of increased resistivity) observation, geomorphological circumstances such as the relief and increased creeping velocity of the active rock glacier, are discussed by using additional remote sensing data. The present study highlights ice-poor permafrost degradation in the Alps resulting from ever-accelerating global warming.

Johannes Buckel et al.

Status: open (until 18 Jan 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-207', Jacopo Boaga, 27 Nov 2022 reply
  • CC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-207', Wilfried Haeberli, 07 Dec 2022 reply

Johannes Buckel et al.

Data sets

Identifying mountain permafrost degradation by repeating historical ERT-measurements - supplement Buckel, Johannes, & Gardeweg, Rainer

Model code and software

Identifying mountain permafrost degradation by repeating historical ERT-measurements - supplement Buckel, Johannes, & Gardeweg, Rainer

Johannes Buckel et al.


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Short summary
This study reveals permafrost melting by repeating old geophysical measurements at three alpine sites. The compared data indicates that ice-poor permafrost is highly affected by temperature warming. The melting of ice-rich permafrost could not be identified. However, complex geomorphic processes are responsible for this rather than external temperature change. We suspect permafrost degradation here as well. In addition, we introduce a new current injection method facilitating data acquisition.