The Thermal State of Permafrost

Project Description
Short Title: TSP
Proposal URL:

The International Permafrost Association's (IPA) main contribution to IPY will be the development of a spatially distributed set of observations on past and present status of permafrost temperatures and active layer thicknesses. Emphasis is on permafrost temperatures since there is currently no global database that defines the thermal state of permafrost (TSP) for a specific time period (snapshot). The TSP data set will serve as a baseline for the assessment of the rate of change of permafrost temperatures and permafrost distribution, to validate climate model scenarios, and to support process research in order to improve our understanding of permafrost dynamics.

TSP measurements, a field component of the WMO/GCOS Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), address questions related to climate warming and the attendant environmental and societal issues in the cold regions of Planet Earth (both polar regions and mid-and lower-latitude mountains and plateaus). These observations will serve as a lead element for the development of an International Network of Permafrost Observatories (INPO). Related activities include coastal erosion, belowground carbon in permafrost regions, regional mapping, data management and education.

The Permafrost Observatory Project has as its major objectives to:
-Obtain a standardised set of permafrost temperature profiles throughout the permafrost regions of Planet Earth (snapshot);
-Produce retrospective and contemporary global data sets of permafrost temperatures, active layer thicknesses and temperatures, and coastal erosion rates;
-Increase the number of GTN-P boreholes, active layer, and coastal erosion sites;
-Develop new estimates of below-ground carbon in permafrost regions;
-Develop and promote educational and other training programs;
-Develop additional approaches for reanalysis of past, present and future permafrost and active layer temperatures;
-Develop research activities at site-specific and regional scales including the formalization of a periglacial monitoring network and regional permafrost mapping;
-Utilise standard protocols and conform to IPY data management policy;
-Report ongoing and new results at international conferences in summer 2008.

The Permafrost Observatory Project (IPY Permafrost Cluster) will consists of two major permafrost subcomponents or subclusters that provides the central focus and responds to IPY Themes 1 (Status/Baseline), 2 (Change), and 5 (Vantage point); and two subcomponents consisting of Bipolar outreach and permafrost-related activities:

1. International Network of Permafrost Observatories (INPO) builds on several existing and developing IPA programmes and projects: GTN-P (both TSP-125 and Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM-439) components), Permafrost and Climate in Europe (PACE-175); and Arctic Coastal Dynamics (ACD), links to other closely related projects including ACCO-Net (182), CoCRA (391), Carbon Pools in Permafrost Regions (CAPP) as the IPA contribution to Permafrost and Carbon Emissions (PEACE: 882), the developing periglacial network, and several mapping projects (Nordic region, Central Asia).

2. Antarctic Permafrost, Permafrost and Soils (ANTPAS-627) project is developed with the SCAR Expert Group on Permafrost and Periglacial Environments, and including ANTPAGE (357). ANTPAS project is submitted separately to the JC in coordination with SCAR and appropriate national Antarctic programmes.

3. Bipolar outreach subcomponent including the existing IPA data, education and communication activities and developing new international university courses and training on permafrost with links to many other complementary IPY projects.

4. Permafrost-related subcomponent includes EoIs that have permafrost-related activities and are directly related to 1-3.

The main Field Campaign is planned for the 12-18 month period during 2007-08, but starting in 2006 with the inspection of potential remote boreholes. The updated GTN-P catalogue of boreholes consists of more than 600 candidate boreholes throughout the permafrost regions (the majority of potential sites are in Russia), 125 sites in the CALM network, and some 25 coastal (ACD) key sites. A Project Steering Committee is under development. Data will be incorporated into the GTN-P and archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Boulder, Colorado. Education and training activities are to be coordinated and developed through the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). IPA/IPY activities will be incorporated into the IUGS International Year of Planet Earth. During summer 2008 our results will be presented at the Ninth International Conference on Permafrost in Fairbanks, Alaska, and at the 33rd International Geological Congress in Oslo.