Rising temperatures or the complete thaw of permafrost in rock walls can affect their stability. Present as well as projected future atmospheric warming results in permafrost degradation and, as a consequence, makes knowledge of the spatial distribution and the temporal evolution of rock temperatures important. Rock-face near-surface temperatures have been measured over one year at 14 locations between 2500 and 4500 m a.s.l. in the Alps. Different slope aspects have been included in order to capture the maximum spatial differentiation of rock temperatures. These data were used to further develop and verify an energy-balance model that simulates daily surface temperatures over complex topography. Based on a 21-year (1982-2002) run of this model, spatial patterns of rock-face temperatures in the Swiss Alps are presented and discussed. This model provides a basis for the reanalysis of past rock-fall events with respect to permafrost degradation as well as for the simulation of future trends of rock temperatures. Furthermore, the spatial patterns of rock-wall temperatures provide a quantitative insight into the topography-related mechanisms affecting permafrost distribution in Alpine areas without local influence from snow cover or an active layer with a complex thermal offset.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Alps, Energy balance, Mountain permafrost, Rock faces, Rock fall, Rock temperatures, Slope instability
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/ppp.501
Journal Permafrost and Periglacial Processes
Gruber, S, Hoelzle, M. (Martin), & Haeberli, W. (Wilfried). (2004). Rock-wall temperatures in the Alps: Modelling their topographic distribution and regional differences. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 15(3), 299–307. doi:10.1002/ppp.501