The thawing of alpine permafrost due to changes in atmospheric conditions can have a severe impact, e.g., on the stability of rock walls. The energy balance model, PERMEBAL, was developed in order to simulate the changes and distribution of ground surface temperature (GST) in complex high-mountain topography. In such environments, the occurrence of permafrost depends greatly on the topography, and thus, the digital terrain model (DTM) is an important input of PERMEBAL. This study investigates the influence of the DTM on the modeling of the GST. For this purpose, PERMEBAL was run with six different DTMs. Five of the six DTMs are based on the same base data, but were generated using different interpolators. To ensure that only the topographic effect on the GST is calculated, the snow module was turned off and uniform conditions were assumed for the whole test area. The analyses showed that the majority of the deviations between the different model outputs related to a reference DTM had only small differences of up to 1 K, and only a few pixels deviated more than 1 K. However, we also observed that the use of different interpolators for the generation of a DTM can result in large deviations of the model output. These deviations were mainly found at topographically complex locations such as ridges and foot of slopes.

Complex topography, Digital terrain model (DTM), High mountain permafrost, Modeling, Sensitivity
Environmental Modeling and Assessment
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Salzmann, N. (Nadine), Gruber, S, Hugentobler, M. (Marco), & Hoelzle, M. (Martin). (2007). Influence of different digital terrain models (DTMs)on alpine permafrost modeling. Environmental Modeling and Assessment, 12(4), 303–313. doi:10.1007/s10666-006-9065-3