Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Global permafrost zones in high-resolution images on Google Earth

20.02.2012
Thawing permafrost will have far-reaching ramifications for populated areas, infrastructure and ecosystems.

A geographer from the University of Zurich reveals where it is important to confront the issue based on new permafrost maps – the most precise global maps around. They depict the global distribution of permafrost in high-resolution images and are available on Google Earth.


The thawing of permafrost soil and rock is likely to have serious consequences for people in Central Asia, Tibet, the Himalayas and Karakorum. The new permafrost map clearly shows the large permafrost regions in these often densely populated mountain ranges.
picture: UZH


Rock avalanche on Piz Cengalo: The major rock avalanche in the Bregaglia after Christmas, 2011, could be a result of temperature rise in permafrost areas.
picture: Heli Bernina 2011

Unstable cable-car and electricity pylons and rock fall – Alpine countries like Switzerland have already had first-hand experience of thawing permafrost as a result of climate change. If temperatures continue to rise, the problem will intensify in many places. Permafrost, namely rock or soil with a negative temperature for at least two years, occurs in the subsurface and therefore cannot be mapped directly. The existing maps are thus fraught with major uncertainties that have barely been studied or formulated. Furthermore, due to the different modeling methods used the maps are difficult to compare.

The most precise global permafrost maps

Now, however, glaciologist Stephan Gruber from the University of Zurich has modeled the global permafrost zones for the first time in high resolution and using a consistent method. In his study recently published in The Cryosphere, the scientist estimates the global permafrost regions at 22 million square kilometers – a sixth of the world’s exposed land surface. With a grid resolution of one square kilometer, Gruber’s maps are the most precise permafrost maps in the world.

Approximation of permafrost patchwork

A large proportion of the permafrost zones lie outside the areas that exhibit continuous permafrost in the subsurface. At relatively small distance, permafrost can here occur right next to non-permafrost ground. In other words, the spatial distribution of permafrost resembles a patchwork quilt, which makes it extremely difficult to identify zones with permafrost in such areas. This is where Gruber’s innovative permafrost maps come in: They are based on high-resolution air temperature and elevation data. Moreover, they reveal an index that indicates the probability of permafrost. The permafrost areas are depicted in grades – from dark blue for near-continuous permafrost to yellow for areas with little permafrost. In contrast to previous permafrost maps, which show clearly defined zones, Gruber’s maps also illustrate the uncertainty of the state of research.

The scientist explains his motivation with the urgency of the matter: “As a result of climate change, areas with permafrost have great potential for unpleasant surprises. That is why it is all the more important for politics and the public to be aware of the problem of thawing permafrost. My maps visualize the otherwise barely visible phenomenon of permafrost.”

Literature:
Stephan Gruber. Derivation and analysis of a high-resolution estimate of global permafrost zonation. The Cryosphere 6, 221–233, 2012, doi: 10.5194/tc-6-221-2012
Global Permafrost Zonation Index Map:
http://www.geo.uzh.ch/microsite/cryodata/pf_global/
Publication: http://www.the-cryosphere.net/6/221/
Contact:
Dr. Stephan Gruber
Department of Geography
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 635 51 46
Email: stephan.gruber@geo.uzh.ch
Nathalie Huber
Media Relations
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 634 44 64
Email: nathalie.huber@kommunikation.uzh.ch

Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>