Cryosphere > Permafrost


Permafrost is perennial frozen ground for at least two consecutive years. It is acknowledged by the World Meterological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as Essential Climate Variable (ECV) and is being monitored for decades, e.g., within the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P).

Remote sensing can monitor these indicators and identify hotspots of surface change. Consequently, it can advise on extension of in-situ monitoring networks and places in-situ measurements into a wider spatial context and supports modelling of subsurface conditions. Radar remote sensing operates through cloud cover and during polar night allowing high-temporal monitoring of disturbance, of the frozen or non-frozen state of the ground, of frost-heave and ground subsidence, of waterbodies and lake and river ice, as well as the dynamics of surface soil moisture and vegetation.

Available products

Disturbance: Permafrost landscape instability and geohazards express themselves as landslides and (thermo-) erosion (disturbance) that can be monitored by satellite remote sensing.

  • Top-cliff erosion: change detection of the top-cliff erosion line along coastal cliffs in the Lena River delta based on TerraSAR-X data from 2013-2014 (PANGAEA Stettner et al. 2015)
  • Next product when it is available

Subsidence: Seasonal ground subsidence occurs every summer due to the melting of ice in the upper ground. The magnitude of subsidence can be used to derive the ice content in the upper ground that seasonally thaws in summer (active layer).

  • Next product when it is available

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