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Permafrost and frozen grounds are key elements of the terrestrial Cryosphere that will be strongly affected by a warming climate. With widespread permafrost degradation likely to occur in this century, remote sensing of permafrost is seeking to unveil the processes and causal connections governing this development, from the monitoring of variables related to the permafrost state to the mapping of the impacts of degradation and potential natural hazards on the ground.

The European Space Agency has launched the GlobPermafrost initiative (2016-2019) to develop, validate and implement information products to support the research communities and related international organisations like IPA and CliC in their work on understanding permafrost better by integration of Earth Observation data. The GlobPermafrost project is a follow up to the DUE Permafrost project.

Permafrost cannot be directly detected from space, but many surface features of permafrost terrains and typical periglacial landforms are observable with a variety of EO sensors ranging from very high to medium resolution in various wavelengths. Prototype cases will cover different aspects of permafrost by integrating in situ measurements of subsurface permafrost properties (active layer depth, active layer and permafrost temperatures, organic layer thickness, liquid water content in the active layer and permafrost), surface properties (vegetation cover, snow depth) and modelling to provide a better understanding of permafrost today. The techniques will extend point source process and permafrost monitoring to a broader spatial domain, to support permafrost distribution modelling and mapping techniques implemented in a GIS framework and will complement active layer and thermal observing networks.

The service will cover the Arctic, Antarctic as well as mountain permafrost regions.