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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Permafrost

Permafrost

This is the latest published version. See older versions.
08 Sep 2008 - Mountain permafrost
Topics: ,
Contents
 

Justification for indicator selection

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground and consists of rock or soil that has remained at or below 0 °C continuously for more than 2 years. It is a widespread phenomenon in the Arctic as well as in the alpine high mountain environments. Climate change leads to changes in spatial extent, thickness and temperature of permafrost. The changes are not uniform across all permafrost areas, but depend on the geographical location and specific characteristics of the permafrost.

Permafrost influences the evolution of landscapes and ecosystems and affects human infrastructure and safety. Permafrost warming or thaw increases risks of natural hazards, such as rock falls, debris flows and ground subsidence. Arctic permafrost thaw can also accelerate climate change through the increased release of CO2 and CH4 which is a powerful Greenhouse Gas (GHG).

Scientific references:

Indicator definition

  • Observed permafrost temperatures from selected boreholes in European mountains
  • Comparison of active layer thickness from boreholes in the Alps, Norway and Svalbard
  • Projected change in Northern Hemisphere near-surface permafrost area

Units

  • Temperature [°C]
  • Depth [m]
  • Area [square km]

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.

Targets

No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents

  • Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
    Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
  • Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
    Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
  • DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
    Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
  • EU Adaptation Strategy Package
    In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Key policy question

What is the trend in the temperature and the thawing depth of permafrost soils across Europe?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Permafrost temperatures from 10 m and 20 m depth and their evolution for selected boreholes in European mountains and active-layer depths (top layer of the soil that thaws during the summer) have been observed.

Projections for Northern Hemisphere permafrost have been derived from the CMIP5 model ensemble.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Data on the cryosphere vary significantly with regard to availability and quality. Data on permafrost are generally restricted to the last 15-25 years.

Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CLIM 011
Specification
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change

Permalinks

Permalink to this version
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Permalink to latest version
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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years in October-December (Q4)

Classification

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

Geographical coverage

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