Implementation of an Alpine wide monitoring of permafrost and geomorphological processes related to permafrost warming

Basic information:

Specifically the Alps react sensitively to temperature fluctuations. Instabilities in permafrost lead to large-scale erosion of soils and can have threatening impacts for the Alpine population and economy.

Increasing temperatures affect the stability of Alpine permafrost. From the perspective of natural hazards prevention, it is important to know whether permafrost areas (e.g., rock glaciers) are still stable and what kind of hazards could be generated by them in the future. As permafrost areas extend beyond national borders, a coordinated approach on monitoring permafrost areas and potential erosion effects seems adequate.

Sequence of implementation steps:

  • Comprehensive Alpine wide stock taking and mapping of existing permafrost monitoring activities, stations and networks
  • Identifying and closing crucial gaps

Assess the availability of remote sensing data and respective services (e.g., Copernicus) and their integration in an Alpine-wide permafrost risk monitoring system.

Based on measures 1a and 1b, an integrated Alpine wide permafrost risk mapping and monitoring (continuous updates), including erosion and glacier-borne hazards is implemented.

Implementation of pilot projects for risk mitigation and contingency planning (e.g., in concrete areas exposed to permafrost thawing, glacial lake outburst, rock-fall & erosion).

Further Information:

  • PLANALP working group and EUSALP AG8
  • Members of VAO
  • Decision makers at national and regional level
  • Decision makers at EU level and providers of meteorological data
  • Alpine-wide permafrost and erosion monitoring
  • Implementation of pilot projects
  • Common monitoring system: number of Alpine countries which have integrated their permafrost and erosion monitoring systems into the Alpine-wide framework; number of activities, stations and networks included in the stock-taking and mapping
  • Remote sensing: qualitative description of assessment, with reference to the different Alpine countries and their approaches
  • Pilot projects: number of pilots
  • Existing national permafrost monitoring systems (e.g., PERMOS for CH)
  • PermaNet Long-Term Permafrost Monitoring Network (stock-taking No. 72)
  • PLANALP activities
  • EUSALP AG8 activities
  • CAPA – Climate Adaptation Platform for the Alps (stock-taking No. 45)
  • Virtual Alpine Observatory VAO (DE, since 2014) (stock-taking No. 39)




The Alps are specifically prone to natural hazards with different scopes, including local events such as avalanches, rockfalls, torrential hazards and landslides as well as larger events like floods. A generally growing population and accumulation of human assets and settlements in hazard-prone areas as well as extreme events tend to increase natural hazard risk. As natural hazards do not stop at regional or national borders, an Alpine-wide common framework to deal with large-scale and potential cross- border impacts is required. Special consideration needs to be given to permafrost areas and potential risks related to permafrost instabilities as well as large-scale flood events with impacts on overall river basins - these natural hazards have the potential to lead to large-scale and cross-border impacts.