Water in permafrost

We study water in permafrost. This gives us a better understanding of the influence of water and ice on natural hazards. This helps to identify endangered areas in simulations and to warn more reliably of dangers.

This is becoming increasingly important in view of climate change. Because if environmental conditions such as air temperature or solar radiation change, this changes the properties of permafrost, how widespread it is and how water and ice are distributed underground. For example, the temperature rises at depth. Likewise, the top layer of the ground or active layer, which is unfrozen in summer, can become thicker, last longer in autumn or even stop refreezing completely in winter. This modifies how permeable the top layer of soil is. In permafrost itself, the ratio of ice to water can change, resulting in ice-water mixtures around 0°C, leading to the formation of unfrozen areas. This is important because ice and water content affect the geotechnical properties of the ground. In other words, the amount and occurrence of water in permafrost are partly responsible for how stable rock faces are and how fast ice-rich soils move. Knowing them gives us a better understanding of how slopes move, from small superficial slides to deep seated landslides.

About the role of water

Understanding the role of water in permafrost is complex. For example, conditions can change within a few metres - with only slight fluctuations in temperature very close to zero degrees Celsius. In addition, water from precipitation and snowmelt can occur next to ice that is several thousand years old. We combine traditional with modern measurement methods and analysis techniques. In this way, we are getting closer to our goal of recording the occurrence and role of water, as well as forecasting how the permafrost will develop in the coming years.


Services & products