Monday paper: Permafrost degradation in Antarctica

In contrary to what happens in the Arctic where permaforst thawing and associated geomorphic and socio-economic implications are being broadly examined, in Antarctica the network of permafrost monitoring sites is limited and no clear trends in permafrost conditions have been observed during the last recent years (e.g. Vieira et al., 2010; Bockheim et al., 2013).


 Panoramic view of the deglaciated area since 1956 in Elephant Point, Antarctica

Within the HOLOANTAR project ( Marc Oliva (University of Lisbon, Portugal) and Jesús Ruiz (University of Oviedo, Spain) have conducted field work in several ice-free areas of the Maritime Antarctic during the last two austral summer seasons. One of these areas has been Elephant Point, a small ice-free environment in the SW corner of Livingston Island. Here, the retreat of the cold-based Rotch glacier has exposed 17% of the present-day ice-free terrain since 1956. These recently deglaciated environments correspond to a relatively flat proglacial area and a moraine, which are experiencing today very intense paraglacial dynamics. In addition, the degradation of the permafrost existing in these areas enhances geomorphic activity and sediment mobilization through a wide range of thermokarst and slope processes.

This is the first time that permafrost degradation in response to paraglacial processes is examined in Antarctica. More information can be found in the following paper:

Oliva, M. & Ruiz-Fernández, J. (2015). Coupling patterns between paraglacial and permafrost degradation responses in Antarctica. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, DOI: 10.1002/esp.3716.


Slumps degrading the permafrost in the moraine slopes


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.

Vieira, G., Bockheim, J., Guglielmin, M., Balks, M., Abramov, A.A., Boelhouwers, J., Cannone, N., Ganzert, L., Gilichinsky, D., Goryachkin, S., López-Martínez, J., 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 2007-2008. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 21: 182-197.


About Marc Oliva

Since 2010 Marc Oliva is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centro de Estudos Geográficos of the University of Lisbon, where he develops his research and teaching activities. He graduated in Geography in 2004 and finished his PhD in 2009 both at the University of Barcelona. He received the “Doctor Europaeus” Mention and was recognized with the prestigious Outstanding PhD Award of this university. His dissertation focused on the reconstruction of the Mid Holocene palaeoecological evolution in Sierra Nevada, a high semiarid mountain environment in southern Iberia. In 2006 he also obtained two MSc degrees (Geography and Applied Climatology). His on-going research interests include the study of present and past geomorphological processes in cold-climate environments. Through the study of the sedimentary record, the past environmental and climate conditions can be inferred. At present he is coordinating a research project in Antarctica (HOLOANTAR, and conducting research activities in the High Arctic and in mid-latitude mountain environments.
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