EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Long-time permafrost evolution in alpine bedrock: quantifying climate change effects with geoelectrical monitoring

Riccardo Scandroglio, Maike Offer, and Michael Krautblatter
Riccardo Scandroglio et al.
  • Chair of Landslide Research, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany (

While climate change driven increase in air temperature has been correctly modeled in recent decades, the extent of its consequences is still uncertain. In high alpine environments, especially in steep rock walls, permafrost degradation reduces slope stability with critical consequences for people and infrastructures: to properly assess the risk, the rate of these changes must be monitored. In the last decades, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) has been used in more than hundred studies to detect permafrost, but there are only limited long-term monitoring cases that mostly do not provide quantitative information. 

Here we compare ERT measurements from two alpine landforms with different altitude and lithology: Steintälli ridge (3160m asl, CH) and Mt. Zugspitze rock wall (2750 m asl, DE/AT). Standard procedures and permanently installed electrodes allow the collection of a unique dataset of consistent measurements since 2006. Supporting information like resistivity-temperature calibration from former studies, rock surface and borehole temperatures as well as active seismic refraction measurements enable an advanced quantitative interpretation of the results. 

Permafrost at both sites is close to disappearing and in both cases resistivity changes are evident and in good agreement with air temperature increase, although with different magnitudes according to the landform. The yearly 3D measurements of the Steintälli ridge show a sudden and conspicuous degradation (~40% of the volume in 15 years), while the monthly 2D monitoring of the north face of Mt. Zugspitze shows slow constant decrease in summer (~15% of the surface in 15 years) and a strong variation in winter in correlation with snow-height. 

For the first time we provide a quantification of alpine permafrost degradation rates in different landforms over 15 years. These datasets help to better understand the different characteristics of the thermal responses to the climate change induced stress on alpine permafrost environments.

How to cite: Scandroglio, R., Offer, M., and Krautblatter, M.: Long-time permafrost evolution in alpine bedrock: quantifying climate change effects with geoelectrical monitoring, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14390,, 2023.