Significant permafrost areas in the mountains:
Permafrost does not only exist in polar and sub-arctic regions, but also in many mountainous regions all over the world. Topography, by way of global radiation, is playing the dominant role. Ice content and temperature distribution within the permafrost may vary strongly on small spatial scales, due to varying surface and subsurface conditions (snow cover, (sub-) surface material, e.g. coarse rubble, fine sediment, or outcropping rock).
Rock glaciers (creep of ice-debris masses) may occur in case of steep topography whose velocity and shape may change greatly with long-term warming air temperatures. Along-term air temperature may also lead to a destabilitzation of permafrost slopes and hence may trigger rock slidesf and mudflows.
Systematic investigation of permafrost in mountain regions did not start before the end of the 1980ies. A reaction of the permafrost to the observed atmospheric warming of the last century is visible, but a clear trend, as for the other elements of the cryosphere, cannot be proven yet due to the short time series and the thermal modification of the signal by surface characteristics and the varying snow cover.
Reliable surface and subsurface temperature data from long-term monitoring networks for the study of permafrost evolution have only been availablesince the year 2000, approximately. In addition, the spatial distribution of ice and liquid water content can be determined by geophysical methods.within the permafrost.
Kinematic measurements using photogrammetry, terrestrial laser scanning and in-situ GPS-measurements, for example, are continuously providing data of possible acceleration trends of rock glaciers as well as rock fall activities that can be related to permafrost changes.
Numerical modelling of the permafrost evolution under different climate change scenarios enable the assessment of permafrost degradation and the potentially resulting destabilising processes, which facilitates the anticipation of future climate change impacts.