Frozen ground and snow cover monitoring in Livingston and Deception islands, Antarctica: preliminary results of the 2015-2019 PERMASNOW project

M.A. de Pablo, J.J. Jiménez, M. Ramos, M. Prieto, A. Molina, G. Vieira, M.A. Hidalgo, S. Fernández, C. Recondo, J.F. Calleja, J.J. Peón, A. Corbea-Pérez, C.N. Maior, M. Morales, C. Mora


Since 2006, our research team has been establishing in the islands of Livingston and Deception, (South Shetland archipelago, Antarctica) several monitoring stations of the active layer thickness within the international network Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM), and the ground thermal regime for the Ground Terrestrial Network-Permafrost (GTN-P). Both networks were developed within the International Permafrost Association (IPA). In the GTN-P stations, in addition to the temperature of the air, soil, and terrain at different depths, the snow thickness is also monitored by snow poles. Since 2006, a delay in the disappearance of the snow layer has been observed, which could explain the variations we observed in the active layer thickness and permafrost temperatures. Therefore, in late 2015 our research group started the PERMASNOW project (2015-2019) to pay attention to the effect of snow cover on ground thermal This project had two different ways to study the snow cover. On the first hand, in early 2017 we deployed new instrumentation, including new time lapse cameras, snow poles with high number of sensors and a complete and complex set of instruments and sensors to configure a snow pack analyzer station providing 32 environmental and snow parameters. We used the data acquired along 2017 and 2018 years with the new instruments, together with the available from all our already existing sensors, to study in detail the snow cover. On the other hand, remote sensing data were used to try to map the snow cover, not only at our monitoring stations but the entire islands in order to map and study the snow cover distribution, as well as to start the way for future permafrost mapping in the entire islands. MODIS-derived surface temperatures and albedo products were used to detect the snow cover and to test the surface temperature. Since cloud presence limited the acquisition of valid observations of MODIS sensor, we also analyzed Terrasar X data to overcome this limitation. Remote sensing data validation required the acquirement of in situ ground-true data, consisting on data from our permanent instruments, as well as ad hoc measurements in the field (snow cover mapping, snow pits, albedo characterization, etc.). Although the project is finished, the data analysis is still ongoing. We present here the different research tasks we are developing as well as the most important results we already obtained about the snow cover. These results confirm how the snow cover duration has been changing in the last years, affecting the ground thermal behavior.


Permafrost; active layer; snow cover; Antarctica; remote sensing

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