Frozen ground and snow cover monitoring in the South Shetland Islands, AntarcticaInstrumentation, effects on ground thermal behaviour and future research

  1. M. A. de Pablo Hernández 3
  2. M. Ramos 3
  3. A. Molina 3
  4. G. Vieira 1
  5. M.A. Hidalgo 3
  6. M. Prieto 3
  7. J. J. Jiménez 3
  8. S. Fernández 2
  9. C. Recondo 2
  10. J. F. Calleja 2
  11. J. J. Peón 2
  12. C. Mora 1
  1. 1 Universidade de Lisboa

    Universidade de Lisboa

    Lisboa, Portugal


  2. 2 Universidad de Oviedo

    Universidad de Oviedo

    Oviedo, España


  3. 3 Universidad de Alcalá

    Universidad de Alcalá

    Alcalá de Henares, España


Cuadernos de investigación geográfica: Geographical Research Letters

ISSN: 0211-6820 1697-9540

Year of publication: 2016

Volume: 42

Issue: 2

Pages: 475-495

Type: Article

DOI: 10.18172/CIG.2917 DIALNET GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openDialnet editor

More publications in: Cuadernos de investigación geográfica: Geographical Research Letters

Sustainable development goals


The study of the thermal behavior of permafrost and active layer on the South Shetland Islands, in the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula (Antarctica), has been our research topic since 1991, especially after 2006 when we established different active layer thickness and ground thermal monitoring sites of the CALM and GTN-P international networks of the International Permafrost Association. Along this period, the snow cover thickness did not change at those sites, but since 2010, we observed an elongation on the snow cover duration, with similar snow onset, but a delay on the snow offset. Due to the important effects of  snow cover on the ground thermal behavior, we started in late 2015 a new research project (PERMASNOW) focused on the accurate monitoring of the snow cover (duration, density, snow water equivalent and distribution), from very different approaches, including new instrumentation, pictures analysis and remote sensing on optical and radar bands. Also, this interdisciplinary and international research team intends to compare the snow cover and ground thermal behavior with other monitoring sites in the Eastern Antarctic Peninsula where the snow cover is minimum and remains approximately constant.

Bibliographic References

  • Abrams, M., Tsu, H., Hulley, G., Iwao, K., Pieri, D., Cudahy, T., Kargel J. 2015. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) after fifteen years: Review of global products. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 38. 292–301.
  • Andersland, O.B., Ladanyi, B. 1994. An Introduction to Frozen Ground Engineering. Chapman and Hall, New York.
  • Bañon, M. and Vasallo, F. 2015. AEMET en la Antártida: Climatología y meteorología sinóptica en las estaciones meteorológicas españolas en la Antártida. AEMET, Madrid, 152 pp.
  • Bockheim, J.G. 1995. Permafrost distribution in the Southern Circumpolar Region and its relation to the environment: a review and recommendations for further research. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 6, 27–45.
  • Bockheim, J., Vieira, G., Ramos, M., López-Martínez, J., Serrano, E., Guglielmin, M., Wilhelm, K., Nieuwendam, A. 2013. Climate Warming and Permafrost Dynamics in the Antarctic Peninsula Region. Global and Planetary Change 100. 215-223.
  • Brown, J., Nelson, F.E., and Hinkel, K.M. 2000. The circumpolar active layer monitoring (CALM) program research designs and initial results. Polar Geography 3, 165-258.
  • California Institute of Technology, 2006, Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer: Instrument Subsystems., [last access 04/12/2006].
  • Carreño, F. 2013. Módulo Radar. Master en Tecnologías de la Información Geográfica, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares.
  • Coleman, T.L., Gudapati, L., Derrington, J. 1990. Monitoring forest plantations using Landsat Thematic Mapper data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 33 211 – 221.
  • Correia, A. Ramos, M., Vieira, G. 2012. Thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity of cores from a 26 meter deep borehole drilled in Livingston Island, Maritime Antarctic. Geomorphology 155-156, 7-11.
  • de Pablo, M.Á., Ramos, M., Vieira, G., Quesada, A. 2010. A new CALM-S site on Byers peninsula, Livingston Island, maritime Antarctica. In: J.J. Blanco, M. Ramos, M.Á. de Pablo (eds.), Proceedings of II Iberian Conference of the International Permafrost Association Periglacial, environments, permafrost and climate variability. Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, pp. 155-162. ISBN: 978-84-9138-885-5.
  • de Pablo, M.Á., Molina, A., Ramos, M. 2011. Transecto de medición sistemática del espesor de la Capa Activa en las proximidades de la Base Antártica Española Juan Carlos I, Isla Livingston, Antártida. Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, pp. 119-122.
  • de Pablo, M.Á., Blanco, J.J., Molina, A., Ramos, M., Quesada, A., Vieira, G. 2013. Interannual active layer variability at the Limnopolar Lake CALM site on Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, Antártica. Antarctic Science 25(2), 167-180.
  • de Pablo, M.Á., Ramos, M., Molina, A. 2014. Thermal characterization of the active layer at the Limnopolar lake CALM site on Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island), Antarctica. Solid Earth 5, 721-739.
  • de Pablo, M.Á., Ramos, M., Molina, A. 2016. Snow cover evolution at the Limnopolar Lake CALM-S site on Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, Antarctica, 2009-2014. Catena. Submitted.
  • Denis A., Stevens, A., Wesemael, B., Udelhoven, T., Tychon, B., 2014. Soil organic carbon assessment by field and airborne spectrometry in bare croplands: accounting for soil surface roughness. Geoderma 226–227, 94–102.
  • Engel, Z., Láska, K., Franta, T., Máčka Z., Marvánek, O. 2010. Recent changes of permafrost active layer on the James Ross Island, Maritime Antarctic. In: J.R. Mertes, H.H. Christiansen, B. Etzelmüller (eds.), Abstracts from the Third European Conference on Permafrost, UNIS, Longyearbyen, p. 129.
  • Escadafal, R. 1993. Remote sensing of soil color: principles and applications. Remote Sensing of Environment 7, 261–279.
  • French, H.M. 1996. The periglacial environment. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, UK.
  • Gómez, A., Palacios, D., Ramos, M., Tanarro, L. M., Schulte, L., Salvador, F. 2001. Location of Permafrost in Marginal Regions: Corral del Veleta (Sierra Nevada, Spain). Permafrost and Periglaciar Processes 12 (1), 93-110.
  • Goodrich, L.E. 1982. The influence of snow cover on the ground thermal regime. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 19, 421–432.
  • Hauck, C., Vieira, G., Gruber, S., Blanco, J.J., Ramos, M. 2007. Geophysical identification of permafrost in Livingston Island, Maritime Antarctic. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, F02S19, doi:10.1029/2006JF00054
  • Hrbáček, F., Láslar, K., Engel, Z. 2014. Thermal regime of permafrost active layer on James Ross Island, Maritime Antarctica in the years 2011 and 2012. IV European Permafrost Conference, Evora, June 2014.
  • Hrbáček, F., Láska, K., Engel, Z. 2015. Effect of Snow Cover on the Active-Layer Thermal Regime – A Case Study from James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, in press. DOI: 10.1002/ppp.1871.
  • Hrbáček, F., Oliva, M., Láska, K., Ruiz-Fernández, J., de Pablo, M.A., Vieira, G., Ramos, M., Nývlt, D. 2016. Active layer thermal regime in two climatically contrasted sites of the Antarctic Peninsula region. Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica 42 (1) (this issue).
  • Jiménez, J. 2013. Caracterización de la variabilidad de la capa activa en el entorno de la BAE Juan Carlos I (Antártida). Trabajo de Fin de Grado. Facultad de Biología, Ciencias Ambientales y Química, Universidad de Alcalá.
  • Jiménez, J. 2014. Metodología para la caracterización de la cobertura nival mediante imágenes TerraSAR X. Aplicación preliminar al sitio CALM Crater Lake, Isla Decepción (Antártida). Master Tesis en Tecnologías de la Información Geográfica, Universidad de Alcalá.
  • Jiménez, J., Ramos, M., de Pablo M., Viera G., Molina, A. 2014. Enthalpic method and microclimatic variability in Livingston Island. A decade of experimental monitoring in the vicinity of SAS Juan Carlos I (Antarctica). In: 4th European Conference on Permafrost. AbsEUCOP4_0020, Évora, Portugal, 18-21 June, 2014.
  • King, J. C., Turner, J., Marchall, G. J., Connolley, W. M., Lachlan-Cope, T. A. 2003. Antarctic Peninsua Variability and its Causes as revealed by Analysis of Instrumental records. In: E. Domack, A. Leventer, A. Burnett, R. Bindschadler, P. Convey, M. Kirby (eds.), Antarctic peninsula climate variability, Antarctic research series AGU, 79, 17–30, 2003.
  • Láska, K., Nývlt, D., Engel, Z., Budík, L. 2012. Seasonal variation of meteorological variables and recent surface ablation / accumulation rates on Davies Dome and Whisky Glacier, James Ross Island, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Abstracts 14, EGU2012–5545.
  • Lewkowicz, A.G. 2008. Evaluation of miniature temperature-loggers to monitor snowpack evolution at mountain permafrost sites, northwestern Canada. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 19, 323–331.
  • Lipzig, N.P.M., King, J.C., Lachlan-Cope, T.A., van der Broeke, M.R. 2004. Precipitation, sublimation and snow drift in the Antarctic Peninsula region from a regional atmospheric model. Journal of Geophysical Research 109, D24106.
  • Longepe, N., Allain, S., Ferro-Famil, L., Pottier, E., and Durand, Y. 2009. Snowpack Characterization in Mountainous Regions Using C-Band SAR Data and a Meteorological Model. IEEE Transactions of Geoscience and Remote Sensing 47(2), DOI 10.1109/TGRS.2008.2006048.
  • Magagi, R., Bernier, M. 2003. Optimal conditions for wet snow detection using RADARSAT SAR data. Remote Sensing of Environment 84, 221-223.
  • Malik, M.J., van der Velde, R., Vekerdy, Z., Su, S. 2012. Assimilation of satellite-observed snow albedo in a land Surface model. Journal of Hydrometeotrology 12, 1119-1130.
  • Matsuoka, N. 2006. Monitoring periglacial processes: Towards construction of a global network. Geomorphology 80, 20-31.
  • Milani, G. 2014. Pic2Map: intégration de photographies dans QGIS. Masther Thesis. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
  • Molina, A., de Pablo, M. A., Ramos, M., Vieira, G. 2011. Estudio del efecto de la cobertura nival sobre los periodos de congelación-descongelación en el entorno de la Base Antártica Española Juan Carlos I. Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, pp. 87-92.
  • Mora, C., Viera G., Ramos, M. 2013. Evaluation of Envisat ASAR IMP imagery for snow mapping at varying spatial resolution (Deception Island, South Shetlands-Antarctica). In: M. Hambrey (edr.), Antarctic Glacial and Periglacial Processes, The Geological Society Publications, London (in press).
  • Nelson, F.E, Shiklomanov, N.I. 2009. The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring Network--CALM III (2009-2014): Long-term Observations on the Climate-Active Layer-Permafrost System. In: Ambientes periglaciares, permafrost y variabilidad climatica, Abstracts.9-14.
  • Produit, T., Tuia, D. 2012. An open tool to register landscape oblique images and generate their synthetic models. Open Source Geospatial Research and Education Symposium (OGRS).
  • Ramos M. 1995. Automatic Device to Measure the Active Permafrost Layer near the Spanish Antarctic Station. Terra Antarctica 2(1), 61-63.
  • Ramos, M. 1997. Topographic Distribution of Short-wave Radiation in the surroundings of the Spanish Antarctic Station Austral summers 1992, 1993, 1994. Terra Antartica 4(1), 5-10.
  • Ramos, M. 1998. Active Layer in the vicinity of the Spanish Antarctic Station. Terra Antartica 5(2), 189-193.
  • Ramos, M., Vieira, G. 2004. Variabilidad térmica de la capa activa y evaluación de la energía perdida por el suelo durante el proceso de congelación en la isla Livingston (Antártida). Inviernos 2000, 2001 y 2002. Boletín de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural (Sec. Geología) 99, 83-92.
  • Ramos, M., Vieira, G. 2008. Evaluation of the ground surface enthalpy balance from bedrock temperatures (Livingston Island, Maritime Antarctic). The Cryosphere 3, 133–145.
  • Ramos, M., Vieira, G., Blanco, J.J., Gruber, S., Hauck, C., Hidalgo, M.A., Tomé, D. 2008. Thermal active layer monitoring in two different sites on Livingston Island during the last seven years: a comparative study. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Permafrost, Fairbanks, Alaska. Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, pp. 1463–1467.
  • Ramos, M., Hassler, A., Vieira, G., Hauck, C., Gruber, S. 2009. Drilling and installation of boreholes for permafrost thermal monitoring on Livingston Island in the Maritime Antarctic. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 20 (1), 57-64.
  • Ramos, M., de Pablo, M.Á., Vieira, G., Molina, A. 2011a. Estado térmico del permafrost y evolución de la capa activa en la experiencia CALM-S (Crater Lake) (Isla Decepción). Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, pp. 95-100.
  • Ramos, M., de Pablo, M.Á., Vieira, G., Molina, A. 2011b. Monitorización sistemática de la evolución térmica del permafrost en las proximidades de las bases antárticas españolas basada en los protocolos CALM-S y TSP. Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, pp. 101-104
  • Ramos, M., de Pablo, M.Á., Molina, A., Vieira, G., Trindade, A., Correia, A. 2012a. Análisis de los ciclos de congelación y descongelación en la capa activa en el entorno de la BAE JCI. Periodo 2000-2011. 7ma Asamblea Hispano Portuguesa de Geodesia y Geofísica, Donostia, Julio-2012, Ed. Aranzadi, pp. 723-726.
  • Ramos, M., de Pablo. M.Á, Molina, A., Vieira., G. 2012b. Progresión del frente de hielo en la capa activa de la experiencia CALM-S “Crater Lake” (Isla Decepción, Antártida). 7ª Asamblea Hispano Portuguesa de Geodesia y Geofísica, Donostia, Julio-2012, Ed. Aranzadi, pp. 727-730.
  • Rees, G. 2006. Remote sensing of snow and ice. Taylor and Francis Group. CRC Press, pp. 99-156.
  • Sentinel-1 User Handbook. GMES-S1OP-EOGP-TN-13-0001. 1st September 2013. European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Tanarro, L.M., Hoelzle, M., García, A., Ramos, M., Gruber, S., Gómez, A., Piquer,M., Palacios, D. 2001. Permafrost Distribution Modelling in the Mountains of the Mediterranean: Corral del Veleta, Sierra Nevada, Spain. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift 55, 253-260.
  • Tedstone, A.J., Nienow, P.W., Gourmelen, N., Dehecq, A., Goldberg, D., Hanna, E. 2015. Decadal slowdown of a land-terminating sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet despite warming. Nature 526, 692–695.
  • TerraSAR-X Ground Segment Basic Product Specification Document. CAF - Cluster Applied Remote Sensing. TX-GS-DD-3302, Issue 1.9, Date: 09.10.2013. TerraSAR-X Services Image Product Guide. Basic and Enhanced Satellite Imagery. Issue 1.0 InfoTerra GmbH 12/2009.
  • Turner, J., Colwell, S.R., Marshall, G.J., Lachlan-Cope, T.A., Carleton, A.M., Jones, P.D., Lagun, V., Reid, P.A., Lagovkina, S. 2005. Antarctic climate change during the last 50 years. International Journal of Climatology 25, 279–294.
  • Turner, J., Bindschadler, R., Convey, P., Di Prisco, G., Fahrbach, E., Gutt, J., Hodgson, D., Mayewski, P., Summerhayes, C. 2009. Antarctic climate change and the environment. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Cambridge, UK.
  • Turner, J., Barrand, N. E., Bracegirdle, T. J., Convey, P., Hodgson, D. A., Jarvis, M., Jenkins, A., Marshall, G., Meredith, M.P., Roscoe, H., Shanklin, J., French, J., Goosse, H., Guglielmin, M., Gutt, J., Jacobs, S., Kennicutt II, M.C., Masson-Delmotte, V., Mayewski, P., Navarro, F., Robinson, S., Scambos, T., Sparrow, M., Summerhayes, M., Speer, M., and Klepikov, A. 2013. Antarctic climate change and the environment: an update. Polar Record 50 (3), 237-259.
  • Urban, M., Eberle, J., Hüttich, C., Schmullius, C., Herold, M. 2013. Comparison of Satellite-Derived Land Surface Temperature and Air Temperature from Meteorological Stations on the Pan-Arctic Scale. Remote Sensing 2013-5, 2348-2367.
  • Valenti, L., Small, D., Meier, E. 2008. Snow cover monitoring using multi-temporal Envisat/ASAR data. Proc. of 5th EARSeL LISSIG (Land, Ice, Snow) Workshop, Bern, Switzerland.
  • Vaughan, D.G., Marshall, G., Connolley, W.M., Parkinson, C., Mulvaney, R., Hodgson, D.A., King, J.C., Pudsey, C.J., Turner, J., Wolff, E. 2003. Recent rapid regional climate warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Climate change 60, 243-274.
  • Venkataraman, G., Singh, G., Kumar, V. 2013. Snow cover area monitoring using multi-temporal TerraSAR-X data. /LAN0122_Venkataraman.pdf
  • Vieira, G., Bockheim, J., Guglielmin, M., Balks, M., Abramov, A., Boelhouwers, J., Cannone, N., Ganzert, L., Gilichinsky, D., Goryachkin, S., López-Martínez, J., Meiklejohn, I., Raffi, R., Ramos, M., Schaefer, C., Serrano, E., Simas, F., Sletten, R., Wagner, D. 2010. Thermal state of permafrost and active-layer monitoring in the Antarctic: advances during the International Polar Year 2007–2009. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 21, 182–197.
  • Vieira, G., Ramos, M., Mora, C., Rocha, M. J., Trigo, I., de Pablo, M.Á. 2011a. Active layer thermal regime in Hurd Peninsula (Livingston Island, Antarctic) from 2000-2010. Mesoscale forcing mechanisms. Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, 105-106
  • Vieira, G., Mora, C., Neves, M., Oliva, M., Batista, V., Ferreira, A., Jorge, M., Trindade, A., Correia, A., Maillol, J. M., Amaral, P., Santos, F., Bernardo, I., Soares, A., Ramos, M., de Pablo, M. A., Bockheim, J., Caselli, A., Goyanes, G., Scaheffer, C., Simas, F., Pimpirev, and C., Kenderova, R. 2011b. Permafrost and Climate Change in the Maritime Antarctic (PERMANTAR-2). Libro de resúmenes del III Simposio Ibérico de la International Permafrost Association, pp. 147-150.
  • Viscarra Rossel, R.A., Minasny, B., Roudier, P., McBratney, A.B. 2006. Colour space models for soil science. Geoderma 133 (3), 320-337.
  • Weyant, W.S. 1966. The Antarctic climate. In: J.C.F. Tedrow (Edr.), Antarctic Soils and Soil Forming Processes: American Geophysical Union, Antarctic Research Ser. 8, 47–59.
  • Wiesmann, A. Mätzler, C. 1999. Microwave emission model of layered snowpacks. Remote Sensing of Environment 70 (3), 307–316.
  • Williams, P.J. 1995. Permafrost and climate change: geotechnical implications. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A 352 (1699), 347-358.
  • Zhang, T., Osterkamp, T. E., Stammes, K. 1996. Influence of the depth hoar layer of seasonal snow cover on the ground thermal regime. Water Resources Research 32 (2), 2075–2086.
  • Zhang, T. 2005. Influence of the seasonal snow cover on the ground thermal regime: An overview. Review of Geophysics 43 RG4002. doi:10.1029/2004RG000157.