Published on 10.09.2019

An international workshop in Evolène to define standard guidelines for inventorying rock glaciers

Rock glaciers are emblematic geomorphological features of the mountain periglacial environment and are indicators of the long-term presence of permafrost (permanently frozen ground). Occurring in most mountain ranges in the world, these moving masses of debris and ice have been investigated and inventoried for several decades in many regions. Increasingly, freely available satellite data offer new opportunities to address basic and applied research questions. In this context, a real international coordination on rock glacier inventories is however still missing.

This represents a major limitation since the scientific community could dispose of an exceptional database regarding these climatic markers (several tens of thousands rock glaciers have already been recorded worldwide). So far, a number of different inventorying approaches have been applied. This is about to change!

Supported by the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and promoted by the Universities of Fribourg and Lausanne, a group of more than 90 scientists has decided to tackle the problem. After a first phase of collaborative work in order to identify contentious points that require in-depth discussion, more than 40 of them will meet in Evolène for a one-week workshop (from the 23rd to the 27th of September) in order to solve the open questions and commonly agree on a founding document.

This workshop will bring together scientists from 14 different countries from 4 different continents. Being the first step in a process envisioned over several years, the aim of the workshop will be to identify and define the key parameters to be used to carry out a rock glacier inventory. This may sound as a simple task but the expectations of scientists around the world are very diverse. Purposes, scales of analysis or regional contexts induce multiple visions.

The task is ambitious, but we hope that the constructive approach that this community has initiated so far will contribute to succeed!   

More information :
- IPA Action Group : Rock glacier inventories and kinematics
- Workshop Evolène
- les glaciers rocheux en général (only in French)

Contacts :
University of Fribourg : Prof. Reynald Delaloye
University of Lausanne : Dr Christophe Lambiel

Two active rock glaciers having blocked the road access to Rifugio Serristori, Suldental, South Tyrol (Italy) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)

Active rock glaciers above the Sassière lake (Iseran) (France) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)

Laurichard rock glacier (France) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)

Las Liebres rock glacier complex (Chile) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)

Active rock glacier, Ben Ohau range (New Zealand) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)

Les Cliosses active rock glacier (Switzerland) (Photo : IPA AG Rock glaciers)