Active rock glacier (3), solifluction lobes, patterned ground

Elevation: 2440-2700m  -   Massif: Bernese Alps   -   Commune: Leukerbad (VS)

In 1988 the cornerstone for a long-term permafrost monitoring site was laid by the University of Bern with the installation of a thermistor chain measuring ground and air temperatures at different levels on a solifluction lobe close to the entrance of the small tributary valley Furggentälti. Some years later a network of ground control points was installed for the geodetic monitoring of surface displacement rates on the solifluction lobe (1990-2000) and a rock glacier (since 1994). Moreover, ground surface temperatures are measured since 1994 at a variety of landforms and the spatio-temporal evolution of the snow cover is observed by photo monitoring. The study site is part of the national permafrost monitoring network PERMOS (“kinematics” site) and particularly interesting because of its location in a relatively warm topo-climatic setting at the lower limit of permafrost occurrence.


  • Measurements and observations

    Thermal (ground surface temperature: GST, ground temperature in a solifluction lobe)
    Geodetic (GNSS)
    Geophysics (geoelectric, refraction seismic, georadar)
    Remote Sensing (webcam, aerial image)
    Weather station

  • Figures

    Current image of Furggentälti with view toward the Gemmi pass



    Current image of the rock glacier.



    Timelapse based on selected webcam images.



    Measured horizontal flow field (mean annual velocity).



    Annual horizontal surface velocity. Mean of a set of points selected in the most active part of the rock glacier.



    3D surface velocity derived from permanent GPS.



    Mean annual ground surface temperature. The orange curve represents the mean temperature of the n sensors installed on the site (grey curves). The orange dotted line is the mean temperature observed since the beginning of the measurements.



    Mean annual dates of the start and end of the snowmelt period (zero curtain phase). Mean of n sensors localized on permafrost terrain.



    Contribution of the Ground Freezing and Ground Thawing Indexes to the mean annual ground surface temperature (MAGST) on a set of selected locations (n) on the rock glacier. Or : how cold was the winter and how warm was the summer at the surface of the rock glacier ?

  • Collaboration

    Geographisches Institut der Universität Bern (1988-2010)

    Förderverein Pro Gemmi (

    Soil moisture monitoring (project SOMOMOUNT, Prof. C. Hauck, University of Fribourg)

  • Publications

    PERMOS 2019. Permafrost in Switzerland 2014/2015 to 2017/2018. Noetzli, J., Pellet, C., and Staub, B. (eds.), Glaciological Report (Permafrost) No. 16-19 of the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, 104 pp, DOI:10.13093/permos-rep-2019-16-19.  

    Pellet, C. and Hauck, C. (2017). Monitoring of soil moisture from middle to high elevation in Switzerland: Set-up and first results from the SOMOMOUNT network. Hydrol. and Earth Syst. Sci., 2, 3199-3220, doi: 10.5194/hess-21-3199-2017

    Pellet, C., Hilbich, C., Marmy, A. and Hauck, C. (2016). Soil moisture data for the validation of permafrost models using direct and indirect measurement approaches at three alpine sites, Front. Earth Sci., 3:91, doi:10.3389/feart.2015.00091

    Staub, B. & Delaloye, R. (2016): Using Near-Surface Ground Temperature Data to Derive Snow Insulation and Melt Indices for Mountain Permafrost Applications. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. DOI: 10.1002/ppp.1890.

    PERMOS (2016). Permafrost in Switzerland 2010/2011 to 2013/2014. Noetzli, J., Luethi, R., and Staub, B. (eds.), Glaciological Report (Permafrost) No. 12-15 of the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, 85 pp.  (pdf)  

    PERMOS (2013). Permafrost in Switzerland 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. Noetzli, J. (ed.), Glaciological Report (Permafrost) No. 10/11 of the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, 80 pp. (pdf)

    PERMOS (2010). Permafrost in Switzerland 2006/2007 and 2007/2008. Noetzli, J. and Vonder Muehll, D. (eds.), Glaciological Report (Permafrost) No. 8/9 of the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, 68 pp. (pdf)

    Delaloye, R., Perruchoud, E., Avian, M., Kaufmann, V., Bodin, X., Hausmann, H., Ikeda, A., Kääb, A., Kellerer-Pirklbauer, A., Krainer, K., Lambiel, C., Mihajlovic, D., Staub, B., Roer, I. & Thibert, E. (2008). Recent interannual variations of rockglaciers creep in the European Alps, Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Permafrost, July 2008, Fairbanks, Alaska, 1, 343-348. (pdf)

    Krummenacher, B.; Mihajlovic, D.; Nussbaum, A.; Staub, B. (Hrsg.) (2008). 20 Jahre Furggentälti –  Permafrostuntersuchungen auf der Gemmi. Geographica Bernensia, Bern.