“In Austria, about 1,600 to 2,000 square kilometres are currently affected by permafrost”, explains workshop chair Dr. Ing. Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer from the University of Graz’s Department of Geography and Regional Sciences. However, the potentially compromised area is much larger: “Rockfall and mudslides from permafrost areas can drastically reduce the safety of mountain huts, hiking trails, and roads”, says the expert. Monitoring this safety hazard is problematic, since currently there is no institutionalised observation network in Austria. The longest closed series of measurements has been conducted by the University of Graz in the Seckauer Tauern, where, according to the scientists, a clear trend towards permafrost warming can be observed.
Nine different keynotes gave an overview of the issues at hand and provided background for the second day of the workshop, which addressed stakeholders and products, areas of monitoring, methods and relevant parameters, synergies, and funding. International input came, i.a., from Swiss colleagues who have been successfully operating a monitoring network for years. The workshop results will feed into a document on strategies for setting up a representative, long-term effective, funded monitoring network for permafrost and periglacial mass movements such as rockfall. “Besides the scientific component, the aspects of natural hazards prevention and climate change adaptation will, of course, also be taken into account”, Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer states.