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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 Jan 2019

Research article | 17 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Permafrost distribution and conditions at the headwalls of two receding glaciers (Schladminger and Hallstadt glaciers) in the Dachstein Massif, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria

Matthias Rode1, Harald Schnepfleitner1, Oliver Sass2, Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer1, and Christoph Gitschthaler1 Matthias Rode et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Regional Science, Working Group on Alpine Landscape Dynamics (ALADYN), University of Graz
  • 2Institute of Geography, Working Group on Geomorphology, University of Bayreuth

Abstract. Permafrost distribution in rockwalls surrounding receding glaciers is an important factor for rock slope failure and rockwall retreat. The Northern Calcareous Alps of the Eastern European Alps form a geological and climatological transition zone between the Alpine Foreland and the Central Alps. Some of highest summits of this area are located in the Dachstein Massif (47°28'32'' N, 13°36'23'' E) in Austria reaching up to 2995 m a.s.l. Occurrence, thickness and thermal regime of permafrost at this partly glaciated mountain massif are scarcely known and related knowledge is primarily based on regional modeling approaches. We applied a multi method approach with continuous ground surface and near-surface temperature monitoring, measurement of bottom temperature of the winter snow cover, electrical resistivity tomography/ERT, airborne photogrammetry, topographic maps, visual observations and field mapping for permafrost assessment. Our research focused on steep rockwalls consisting of massive limestone above several receding glaciers exposed to different slope aspects at elevations between c.2600–2700 m a.s.l. We aimed to quantify distribution and conditions of bedrock permafrost particularly at the transition zone between the present glacier surface and the adjacent rockwalls.

Low ground temperature data suggest that permafrost is mainly found at cold, north exposed rockwalls. At southeast exposed rockwalls permafrost is only expected in very favourable cold conditions at shadowed higher elevations (2700 m a.s.l.). ERT measurements reveal high resistivities (> 30.000 ohm.m) at ≥ 1.5 m depth at north-exposed slopes (highest measured resistivity values > 100 kohm.m). Based on laboratory studies and additional measurements with small scale ERT, these values indicate permafrost existence. Such permafrost bodies were found in the rockwalls at all measurement sites independent of investigated slope orientation. ERT data indicate large permafrost bodies at north exposed sites whereas discontinuous permafrost bodies prevail at northwest and northeast facing rockwalls. In summary, permafrost distribution and conditions around the headwalls of the glaciers of the Dachstein Massif is primarily restricted to the north exposed sector, whereas at the south exposed sector permafrost is restricted to the summit region.

Matthias Rode et al.
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Matthias Rode et al.
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