Published on 03.02.2020

An international workshop in Fribourg dedicated to rock glacier kinematics

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, inventoried and monitored 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 and monitoring is however still missing.

The IPA (International Permafrost Association) Action Group Rock glacier inventories and kinematics (2018-2022) aims at exploring the feasibility of developing widely accepted standard guidelines for inventorying and monitoring rock glaciers on a global scale, including information on their kinematics. Baseline concepts have been worked on and defined in a common contribution of the Action Group members, and practical guidelines for inventorying rock glaciers will be developed in accordance in a later stage. The baseline concepts specify that kinematics could be included as an optional attribute in standardized rock glacier inventories. However, the way this inclusion could be performed requires further investigation. Moreover, the Action Group aims also to explore the feasibility of preparing “products” which could serve for monitoring rock glacier kinematics as an associated parameter of the ECV (Essential Climate Variable) Permafrost in a climate-oriented perspective.

Supported by the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and promoted by the University of Fribourg, a group of more than 115 scientists has decided to tackle the problem. More than 25 of them will meet in Fribourg for a 3-day workshop (from the 11rd to the 13th of February 2020) in order to solve the open questions and commonly agree on founding documents. This workshop will bring together scientists from 8 different countries from 2 different continents.

In the continuation of a process envisioned over several years, the aim of the workshop will be to set the necessary concepts for including kinematics as an optional attribute in standardized rock glacier inventories, and for standardizing the production and exploitation of rock glacier kinematical time series in a climate-oriented perspective. 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 :

Contacts :

University of Fribourg : Prof. Reynald Delaloye and Dr. Chloé Barboux

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)