Development of low-cost and robust electrical resistivity tomography monitoring system for remote permafrost environments (PERM2ERT)

The PERM2ERT project is a SPI technogrant and aims to develop a new, robust, low-cost and autonomous ERT system (A-ERT) for permanent installation in the remote permafrost regions of the world. The overall objective is to make an international A-ERT monitoring network on permafrost feasible, enabling a quantitative analysis of the current ground ice evolution in permafrost regions under climate change.

Within PERM2ERT, we plan to develop four new instruments based on pilot studies in Antarctica and the Swiss Alps and test it under field conditions in four different cold and remote environments, including the Antarctic Peninsula region, Pamir Alay/Central Asia, Yukon and the European Alps (as reference location). The significance of this technological development consists therefore also of the initiation of a global network of A-ERT stations on permafrost which may become part of the newly formed International Permafrost Association (IPA) Action Group IDGSP (Towards an International Database of Geoelectrical Surveys on Permafrost).


  • Project partners

    Cryosphere & Geophysics Research Group, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

    Christian Hauck, Full Professor, Project PI.
    Christin Hilbich, Senior Researcher.
    Coline Mollaret, Senior Researcher.
    Tamara Mathys, PhD student.

    University of Lisbon, Portugal

    Mohammad Farzamian, Researcher, Project CO-PI
    Gonçalo Vieira, Full Professor.

    Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Ottawa, Canada

    Antoni G. Lewkowicz, Full Professor.
    Teddi Herring, Postdoctoral fellow.

    Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

    Filip Hrbacek, Assistant Professor.

    Private sector

    Erich Lippmann and Arne Schwab (Lippmann Geophysical Instruments, Germany).
    Miguel Esteves, freelance geophysicist.

  • Development plans for technologies and processing tools

    The proposed prototype comprises a Lippmann resistivity meter (Lippmann Geophysical Instruments) with 48 monitoring switchboxes, corresponding to a set of 48 electrodes as used in many standard ERT systems, as well as the permafrost environment-specific system components such as a protection box, battery, solar panel, electrodes, cables and supporting structure. The basic components have been tested in pilot studies at the CALM and GTN-P sites on Deception and Livingston Islands (South Shetland Islands, Maritime Antarctica).

    In terms of technology development, the project's current challenges and planned improvements include: (i) remote data transfer and system control using Iridium satellite communications: to ensure continuous two-way communication for every remote deployment site, making it possible to easily retrieve data and remotely change the measurement frequency, electrode configuration and current injection; (ii) optimization of energy consumption, especially in polar regions where winter solar power is scarce; (iii) measurements in multiple-configuration mode, allowing the simultaneous monitoring of the active layer (daily/seasonal cycle) and the permafrost (climate signal), and (iv) electrode contact.

    In terms of processing tools, the current challenge and planned improvements concern semi-automated processing tools for filtering, inversion and visualization of the large expected amount of data and coupling them with climate data . The developed tools will be tested on the A-ERT data obtained from the monitoring sites at various environments to determine the best practices for processing of A-ERT data in permafrost environments.

  • Proposed monitoring sites

    Antarctica: James Ross Island, North-Eastern Antarctic Peninsula region. The area has been a subject of Czech research activities since 2004. The proposed study site is located near to Johann Gregor Mendel station about 10 m a.s.l. approximately 200 m far from the shoreline. The site is a place of continuous research of a wide range of atmospheric parameters as well as active layer and permafrost, which involves two sites with continuous ground temperature measurements down to 2m depth in 30 min interval, annual active layer probing (since 2014), GPR measurement (since 2017), and continuous measurement of volumetric water content (down to 50 cm).


    Arctic: site MP788, near Teslin, SE of Whitehorse (Yukon/Canada) – The site represents warm, discontinuous permafrost within the boreal forest and includes an air temperature logger and a shallow borehole which has been monitored since 2010. The active layer is less than 1 m thick, permafrost extends to a depth of about 5 m and the ground temperature at the depth of zero annual amplitude has remained almost constant at -0.03°C. Average apparent resistivity at the end of summer along a permanent ERT array, however, declined progressively by 40% from 2010 to 2021 indicating that internal thaw of the permafrost is occurring.


    Central Asia: Koksu valley, Pamir Alay (4100 m a.s.l. Kyrgyzstan) - This site is located in typical high-altitude permafrost and is especially valuable because of the availability of meteorological legacy data, including ground surface temperatures, from 1967 to 1998 in proximity to Abramov glacier at an altitude of 3840 m a.s.l. A new meteorological station was installed in 2011 at the site approximately 1 km from the former Soviet station, providing standard meteorological variables at an hourly interval.

    Swiss Alps: Stockhorn (Valais Alps, 3410 m a.s.lSwitzerland) – This site is one of the long-term permafrost monitoring sites established within the European PACE project and is included into the operational permafrost network PERMOS since its beginning (Permos 2021). It includes two deep boreholes with temperature measurements and a meteorological station including all 4 radiation components as well as a permanently installed ERT line (measured manually once a year so far).


  • First meeting on May 5th 2022.


Prof. Christian Hauck

Department of Geosciences

University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4

CH–1700 Fribourg

   +41 26 300 90 21