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

Permathawing permafrost 

Unnur Blær A. Bartsch1, Guðrún Gísladóttir1, and Harpa Grímsdóttir2
Unnur Blær A. Bartsch et al.
  • 1University of Iceland , Institute of Life and Environmental Sciences, Geography, Reykjavík, Iceland (
  • 2Icelandic Meteorological Office, Avalanche centre, Ísafjörður, Iceland

Permafrost is perennially frozen ground occurring in about 24% of the exposed land surface in the northern hemisphere. The soil categorized as permafrost is named cryosol (or gelisol). Cryosol is widely spread in the Arctic, where it is continuous in the polar regions while in the sub-arctic it is discontinuous or sporadic. Iceland is located on the edge of the Arctic, and therefore permafrost can be found in many regions of the island. In addition, the frost effect is great, due to the unique climate and weather conditions and the high sensitivity of the Icelandic soil (volcanic soil – andosol). Although the distribution of permafrost is widespread it is in many respects dependent on the weather. As the climate warms, as it does now, the permafrost retreats rapidly, causing major changes in the earth’s surface. These changes can be accompanied by various dangers. In Iceland the retreat of permafrost in high mountains has led the top slopes to become unstable, leading to increased risk of landslides and similar hazards. In this project, permafrost in Iceland will be examined, more specifically the areas where permafrost is considered to be thawing and the dangers that accompany that thawing. The research area is by Strandartindur mountain in Seyðisfjörður. On the slope of Strandartindur is a rock glacier, which is in motion, but it is believed that permafrost is hidden in the ground beneath. The area is a well-known landslide area, where the source of landslides high up in Strandartindur is thick sediments that are partly considered permafrost or rock glaciers. Rock glaciers and thawing of permafrost in the vicinity and/or in the glacier threaten settlements in the area, due to landslides. This will be a threefold multidisciplinary project where aspects of natural hazards and society will be tied together; (i) data from soil thermometers and InSAR data will be examined, (ii) discussed and examined how permafrost can be included in monitoring, (iii) and how information on the dangers associated with permafrost can be disseminated to residents and the general public. The project will be useful for monitoring the hazard area at Strandartindur, while also for monitoring comparable areas in the country. It is hoped that the product of this project will be a monitoring research proposal. The result will show how best to measure permafrost, how best to monitor its thawing and how best to provide information to residents and the general public.

How to cite: A. Bartsch, U. B., Gísladóttir, G., and Grímsdóttir, H.: Permathawing permafrost , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8176,, 2022.