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 New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature
24.05.2019 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer
21.05.2019 | Universität Heidelberg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>