EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Spatio-temporal variations in rock wall temperature in Norway post the Little Ice Age 

Justyna Czekirda1, Bernd Etzelmüller1, Sebastian Westermann1, Ketil Isaksen2, and Florence Magnin3
Justyna Czekirda et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, 0316 Oslo, Norway
  • 2Department of Research and Development, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, 0313 Oslo, Norway
  • 3EDYTEM, Université Savoie Mont-Blanc, CNRS, 73000 Chambery, France

Warming-induced permafrost degradation is believed to be responsible for the increasing number of rock-slope instabilities, such as rockfalls or rock avalanches, over the past few decades. Relationship between permafrost degradation and geomorphological activity, is nevertheless, hard to establish because often little is known about the permafrost distribution in steep slopes. In the present study, we assess spatio-temporal changes in rock wall temperature in Norway post the Little Ice Age, using the two-dimensional ground heat flux model CryoGrid 2D. We create transects across the monitored rock walls in the Western Norway, in the high alpine range of Jotunheimen and in the Northern Norway.

               Our results demonstrate that rock wall temperature at 20 m depth increased by an average of 0.2 °C decade-1 since the 1980s. Therefore, if atmospheric warming rates remain similar, rock wall permafrost currently at -1 °C at 20 m depth could degrade completely at this depth by 2070. Furthermore, we show how rock wall temperature is influenced by: (1) rock wall geometry, (2) rock wall size, (3) magnitude of surface offsets due to the incoming shortwave solar radiation, (4) snow conditions above and below rock walls, (5) blockfield-covered plateaus or glaciers in their vicinity. Multi-dimensional thermal effects are smaller in Norway than in the European Alps due to the dissimilarities in mountain geometry and smaller differences in ground surface temperature between various mountainsides. Rock walls with large surface offsets arising from solar radiation might be warmer than plateaus above or talus slopes below, thus ground heat flux in such rock walls is directed towards colder plateaus or talus slopes. Furthermore, thermal conditions in blockfield-covered plateaus have impact on rock wall temperature and lead to larger warming rates at 20 m depth, whereas large glaciers decrease warming rates at the same depth. Therefore, a potential glaciers retreat would likely increase ground warming rates in the nearby parts of rock walls.  

How to cite: Czekirda, J., Etzelmüller, B., Westermann, S., Isaksen, K., and Magnin, F.: Spatio-temporal variations in rock wall temperature in Norway post the Little Ice Age , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-3211,, 2022.