IPA Action Group: Towards an International Database of Geoelectrical Surveys on Permafrost (IDGSP)

The IPA Action Group (2021-2023) has the main objective of bringing together the international community interested in geoelectrical measurements on permafrost and laying the foundations for an operational International Database of Geoelectrical Surveys on Permafrost (IDGSP). We aim to initiate a database for geoelectrical data and develop guidelines for survey repetition and data processing.  We promote and support the repetition of existing legacy geoelectrical measurements to yield the resistivity evolution over time and so detect temperature and ground ice/water changes in response to climate changes.

The Action Group consists at present of a network of more than 50 scientists interested in permafrost geophysics from 13 countries. If you are interested to take part, please subscribe to this mailing list!

Figure 1 The map shows the locations of the 405 ERT surveys on permafrost which are currently contained in the IDGSP data base.


  • Objectives

    Specific aims of the Action Group are:

    • Integrate historical and recent ERT surveys within the IDGSP to serve as (a) permafrost evidences on a spatially denser grid than existing borehole temperatures and (b) baseline for permafrost and ground ice content monitoring in combination with GTN-P.
    • Define a common strategy and standardized QA/QC criteria for repetition and inversion of ERT measurements
    • Promote the repetition of geoelectrical measurements by providing financial and technical support
    • Develop standard permafrost resistivity data products (map of locations, typical values for different materials and landforms, standard figures of mean resistivity change over time)
    • Increase the awareness of the value of geophysical data within the permafrost community and coordinate first steps toward their potential integration into GTN-P.
  • Organisation of the Action Group

    Steering committee

    Mohammad Farzamian, Univ. of Lisbon, Portugal

    Christian Hauck, Christin Hilbich, Coline Mollaret, Univ. of Fribourg, Switzerland

    Teddi Herring, Univ. of Ottawa, Canada

    Andreas Hördt, TU Braunschweig, Germany

    Christof Kneisel, Univ. of Würzburg, Germany

    Cécile Pellet, PERMOS office, Univ. of Fribourg, Switzerland

    Ricardo Scandroglio, TU München, Germany

    Sebastian Uhlemann, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA



    Working Groups


    WG1: Database Structure and implementation

    This WG will initiate the development of the IDGSP using synergies with funded national projects (REP-ERT Switzerland, PermafrostNet Canada). First steps include the development of the overall concept for the IDGSP, including the DB structure, but also questions regarding hosting, and securing of the long-term commitment, data policy, etc.

    WG2: Compilation of Meta Data

    First steps will include the circulation of an online available submission form for collecting metadata on geoelectrical surveys on permafrost (call for data) and the spatial representation of existing ERT surveys (map of ERT surveys). In addition, a concept for an 'open access metadata archive' will be developed.

    WG3: Strategy for ERT Survey Repetition

    This WG defines the criteria/priorities to select relevant profiles to be re-measured in 2021/2022, and coordinates financial and technical support, where necessary. Moreover, it aims at developing guidelines for measurement and repetition of ERT surveys on permafrost.

    WG4: Joint Data Processing

    This WG will address the geophysical (QA/QC, consistent processing) aspects of the database, with the aim to compile guidelines for the re-processing and archiving of historical (and recent) ERT data on permafrost.

    WG5: Incorporating Additional Data & Link to GTN-P

    This WG addresses all questions regarding potential additional (meta) data that should be included in the DB (e.g. VES surveys, other geophysical methods, boreholes, etc.). Further, it will coordinate first steps towards a future link to GTN-P.

    WG6: Data Application and Publication

    This WG develops a strategy for the analysis of the joint data set and coordinates different approaches to analyse/illustrate the available data in preparation of a joint publication.

    WG7: Webpage and Web-based Interface for Data Upload

    This WG will coordinate all activities around the webpage and the planned web-based interface for (meta) data upload and a public location map of all ERT surveys in the DB.

    The participation to these Working Groups is open. If you want to join and contribute one of them, please join the WG channel on Slack (contact ertdb@unifr.ch if needed).

  • Deliverables

    The main objective of the Action Group is the initiation of the IDGSP; therefore, our main deliverable is the development of a concept and securing the funding and long-term maintenance of such a database.

    As in-between steps to reach this goal we plan to deliver:

    • a systematic and open access metadata archive/compilation of all electrical resistivity surveys on permafrost;
    • guidelines for measuring, processing, and archiving ERT data on permafrost;
    • definition of benchmark ERT calibration sites and measurements, where independent thermal and depth information of boreholes as well as laboratory data can be used to calibrate and validate the accuracy of ERT data;
    • the establishment of a concept for a workshop to train young researchers in using ERT techniques in developing countries where permafrost occurrence is widespread such as the large mountain chains of the Andes or Himalayas.
    • a concept for a future integration of geoelectrical data on permafrost in GTN-P; and
    • two peer-review publications on (a) data processing, inversion and archiving guidelines in the context of the IDGSP and (b) a synopsis of the existing repetitions of ERT surveys on permafrost in the context of climate warming
  • Data Call and Financial support for fieldwork
    • Call for geoelectrical metadata

    The first step before the collection of the resistivity data is the compilation of a meta data base, including all relevant information about the electrical surveys. The call for meta data is now open. Please submit the meta data of your electrical profiles via this metadata form. Metadata can be submitted at any time. (Don’t hesitate to contact us through the Slack platform or ertdb@unifr.ch for any question)

    • Call for geoelectrical metadata

    Harmonization and standardization of data format was done using the unified data format (http://resistivity.net/bert/data_format.html), which is transparent and transportable.

    The resistivity data is welcome in any format (standard and self-explanatory formats are of course preferred). BUT to simplify the upload of resistivity data into the database, the unified data format  (link above) is preferred (with the topography included at the beginning of the file).

    Further information about the data format and examples can be found here.

    • Financial support for repetition of ERT surveys Application

    One of the aims of the IPA Action Group is to promote the repetition of historical ERT surveys with high significance for the permafrost community. Within this purpose, financial support is available for field work in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Please fill in the following form: Financial support form for 2022

  • Database structure

    A server hosted at the University of Fribourg has been dedicated to the database (maintained by the IT service of the University allowing for a long-term archive). We used the open source relational database management system PostgreSQL (together with Psycopg2 - a PostgreSQL database adapter for the Python programming language). An important task of this project was to develop the structure of the database. First, we made a list of all the content, that was considered necessary and optional in the database. And then, we built the different tables of data and metadata and defined how the tables related to each other. The final structure of the database is shown in Figure 2. It is built in a way that new tables (or new fields in existed tables) can be added in the future if needed. Therefore, the database structure stays flexible and may integrate new features.

    Figure 2 shows how the 17 main tables are related to each other’s. 11 secondary tables are not represented in Figure 2 for a better readability. The secondary tables are used to reduce the storage needs on the server, by linking certain type of fields to a unique numeric id (e.g. each country is linked to a unique number).

    Figure 2 Structure of the Resibase database including 17 related main tables categorized in 5 groups: metadata (blue), data - raw and inverted (green), filtering parameters (yellow), inversion parameters (orange) and data quality (red). (Mollaret et al., in preparation)

    Table 1 presents the current number of data and metadata, which are fully integrated in the database. As becomes obvious from Table 1, there is currently a much higher number of metadata than full resistivity data sets in the database, which is due to the much earlier call-for-metadata (in 2021) compared to the call-for-data (in 2022). This discrepancy should balance in the coming year.


  • 2021 April 19: IPA AG Kick-off meeting
  • 2021 June 7: AG meeting to present and discuss the strategies developed by the working groups
  • Frozen Ground 2021, the News Bulletin of the IPA
  • 2022 May 3rd, Action Group Online Meeting


Prof. Christian Hauck

Department of Geosciences

University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4

CH–1700 Fribourg

   +41 26 300 90 21