image001.jpg GO4ICE



The general objective of the project SPCC-GO4ICE is the quantitative assessment of Alpine permafrost degradation using coupled geophysical and thermal monitoring systems




PERMOS (since 2005) & German Research Foundation (DFG) (August 2008-2011) as part of the Bündel-project “Sensitivity of Mountain Permafrost to Climate Change” (SPCC)



Dr. Christin Hilbich

Prof. Christian Hauck


Prof. Roland Mäusbacher

Department of Geography, University of Jena, Germany

Geosciences Department, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Department of Geography, University of Jena, Germany





A climate induced warming of the atmospheric surface layer and a corresponding increase of ground temperatures will lead to substantial changes in the water and energy balance of regions underlain by permafrost. In the context of an increased frequency of extreme weather periods, such as the hot summer 2003 in the European Alps, and associated slope instabilities, a monitoring of mountain permafrost degradation becomes more and more important. Common observation techniques are based on thermal aspects of permafrost evolution, as in existing European (PACE21) and Swiss (PERMOS) borehole temperature monitoring networks. Concerning slope instabilities and permafrost distribution and evolution models, not only temperature but especially the ice content of the subsurface plays an important role for permafrost observation purposes.

In summer 2006 the installation of a semi-automatic ERT monitoring system has been finished at 4 permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps (in close cooperation with PERMOS). This geophysical monitoring network serves to investigate the sensitivity of characteristic morphological sites to extreme atmospheric forcing in order to estimate the long-term evolution due to climate induced warming. Monitoring profiles are located at two rock glaciers, two bedrock sites, and two talus slopes. The geophysical monitoring strategy includes repeated ERT measurements with a monthly to seasonal resolution over several years, as well as annual refraction seismic measurements at all sites. Whereas relative resistivity changes with time can be attributed to freeze and thaw processes, combined ERT and refraction seismic tomography will serve to determine total fractions of ice, unfrozen water and air within the pore space of the respective subsurface sections.





o   Observation of the mountain permafrost evolution in the Swiss Alps and its sensitivity to climate change

o   Development of geophysical based monitoring techniques to quantify the composition of the subsurface material in high alpine permafrost terrain, and in particular the ice content evolution in both spatial and temporal dimension

o   Establishing a permanently installed electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) monitoring network and a repeated refraction seismic monitoring at different permafrost landforms in the Swiss Alps

o   Assessment of the sensitivity of different permafrost landforms to extreme temperature and precipitation anomalies (e.g. the extraordinary hot summer 2003, hot July 2006 or warm autumn and late snow fall 2006) to estimate possible long-term changes due to climate induced warming





o   Time-lapse electrical resistivity tomography (ERT)

o   Time-lapse refraction seismic tomography (TLST)

o   Borehole temperature & energy balance monitoring (data from PERMOS)

o   Soil moisture monitoring

o   Four-Phase-Modelling (4PM)





Bernese Alps


bedrock summit




bedrock plateau



talus slope



Flüela Pass

talus slope



rock glacier


Gianda Grischa

rock glacier



Fig. 1: Map of permafrost distribution in the Swiss Alps and the PERMOS network (indicated by black dots). Sites with additional geophysical monitoring are highlighted in blue.






o   PERMOS (Dr. J. Noetzli)

o   Dr. J. Noetzli, Dr. S. Gruber, Dr. I. Gärtner-Roer, A. Hasler (Glaciology, Geomorphodynamics and Geochronology, University of Zurich, Switzerland)

o   Prof. R. Delaloye, Prof. M. Hoelzle, Sebastien Morard, Martin Scherler, Sina Schneider (Geosciences Department, Geography Unit, University of Fribourg, Switzerland)

o   Dr. Christophe Lambiel, Cristian Scapozza (Department of Physical Geography, University Lausanne, Switzerland)

o   Dr. C. Kneisel, Daniel Schwindt, Tobias Rödder (Department of Physical Geography, University of Würzburg, Germany)

o   Dr. Michael Krautblatter, Sarah Verleysdonk (Department of Physical Geography, University of Bonn, Germany)

o   Dr. R. Frauenfelder (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Oslo, Norway)

o  Dr. M. Hertrich, Dr. L. Marescot (Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zürich, Switzerland)

o  Dr. Marcia Phillips (SLF Davos, Switzerland)





Hauck, C. 2002. Frozen ground monitoring using DC resistivity tomography. Geophysical Research Letters 29(21). [pdf]

Hauck, C. & Vonder Mühll, D. 2003. Inversion and interpretation of two-dimensional geoelectrical measurements for detecting permafrost in mountainous regions. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 14(4): 305-318. [pdf]

Hauck, C. & Vonder Mühll, D. 2003. Evaluation of geophysical techniques for application in mountain permafrost studies. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, N.F., Suppl. 132: 159-188.

Hauck, C., Vonder Mühll, D. & Hoelzle, M. 2005. Permafrost monitoring in high mountain areas using a coupled geophysical and meteorological approach. Climate and Hydrology of Mountain Areas. De Jong, C., Wiley: 59-71.

Hauck, C., Vonder Mühll, D. & Maurer, H. 2003. Using DC resistivity tomography to detect and characterize mountain permafrost. Geophysical Prospecting 51(4): 273-284. [pdf]

Hauck, C., Bach, M. & Hilbich, C. 2008. A 4-phase model to quantify subsurface ice and water content in permafrost regions based on geophysical datasets. In: Kane, D.L. & Hinkel, K.M. (Eds.): Ninth International Conference on Permafrost. Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Vol. 1: 675-680.

Hilbich, C., Hauck, C., Scherler, M., Schudel, L., Völksch, I., Hoelzle, M., Vonder Mühll, D. & Mäusbacher, R. 2008. Monitoring of mountain permafrost evolution using electrical resistivity tomography: A seven-year study of seasonal, annual and long-term variations at Schilthorn, Swiss Alps. Journal of Geophysical Research 113,, F01S90, doi:10.1029/2007JF000799. [pdf]

Hilbich, C., Hauck, C., Delaloye, R. & Hoelzle, M. 2008. A geoelectric monitoring network and resistivity-temperature relationships of different mountain permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps. In: Kane, D.L. & Hinkel, K.M. (Eds.): Ninth International Conference on Permafrost. Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Vol. 1: 699-704.

Maurer, H. & Hauck, C. 2007. Geophysical imaging of alpine rock glaciers. Journal of Glaciology 53(180): 110-120. [pdf]

Noetzli, J., Hilbich, C., Hauck, C., Hoelzle, M. & Gruber, S. 2008. Comparison of Transient 2D Temperature Fields with Time-Lapse Electrical Resistivity Data at the Schilthorn Crest, Switzerland. In: Kane, D.L. & Hinkel, K.M. (Eds.): Ninth International Conference on Permafrost. Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Vol. 2: 1293-1298.

Hilbich, C., Marescot, L., Hauck, C., Loke, M.H. & Mäusbacher, R. 2009. Applicability of Electrical Resistivity Tomography Monitoring to Coarse Blocky and Ice-rich Permafrost Landforms. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 20(3): 269-284. [pdf]

Hilbich, C. 2009. Geophysical Monitoring Systems to Assess and Quantify Ground Ice Evolution in Mountain Permafrost. PhD thesis at the University of Jena, pp. 173. [pdf]

Hilbich, C. 2010. Time-lapse refraction seismic tomography for the detection of ground ice degradation. The Cryosphere 4: 243-259. [pdf]

Arenson, LU., Hauck, C., Hilbich, C., Seward, L., Yamamoto, Y. & Springman, SM. 2010. Subsurface heterogeneities in the Murtèl-Corvatsch rock glacier, Switzerland. Conference Proceedings GEO2010, Canada. (in press)

Hilbich, C., Fuss, C. & Hauck, C. (in review). Automated time-lapse ERT for improved process analysis and monitoring of frozen ground. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes.



Last update: 16/05/2011 (C. Hilbich)