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ECV T7 Permafrost and seasonally-frozen ground
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Decadal changes in permafrost temperatures and depth of seasonal freezing/thawing are reliable indicators of climate change in high latitude and mountain regions. Warming may result in a reduction in the extent of permafrost and can have an impact on terrain stability and moisture and gas fluxes. Like glaciers, mountain permafrost and seasonally-frozen ground can also provide a significant contribution to summer water availability. Standardized in situ measurements are essential, both to calibrate and to verify regional and global climate change.

ECV biomass standards report

As requested by UNFCCC SBSTA/COP for its 23rd Session in Montreal, November 2005, GTOS is undertaking the assessment of the status of the development of standards for each of the essential climate variables in the terrestrial domain. The following report, documentation and other material have been compiled for permafrost. We very much welcome your comments and inputs in improving and completing the analysis. Please send any material and comments to the GTOS Secretariat.


Download report PDF, 1.08 Mb, 1 November 2009


Listed below are the major references that have been identified in regards to methodology and standards for permafrost. Please inform us if you are aware of any other documentation or material which could be considered.

Brown, J., K.M. Hinkel, and F.E. Nelson (2000) The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program: Research designs and initial results. Polar Geography, 24(3), 165–258. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-01

Burgess, M.M., Smith, S.L., Brown, J., Romanovsky, V., and Hinkel, K. (2000). The Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTNet-P): Permafrost monitoring contributing to global climate observations. In Current Research 2000E, Geological Survey of Canada. Available on-line at: GSC Bookstore ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-04

Hinkel, K.M, Paetzold R, Nelson, F.E, Bockheim, J.G (2001). Patterns of soil temperature and moisture in the active layer and upper permafrost at Barrow, Alaska: 1993-1999. Global and Planetary Change 29: 293-309. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-19

International Permafrost Association. (1998). Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS) CD-ROM, version 1.0. Published by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, Boulder, Colorado.

International Permafrost Association (IPA) The Working Group on Periglacial Processes and Environments (2004) A Handbook on Periglacial Field Methods ,Edited by Ole Humlum Norikazu Matsuoka. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-02

Nixon, F.M, (2000).Thaw-depth monitoring. In The Physical Environment of the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories: a Base Line for the Assessment of Environmental Change. Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin 547: 119-126. See document

Nixon, F.M.: Mackenzie Valley CALM sites, background information. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-22

The Implementation Plan for Global Observing Systems for Climate in Support of the UNFCCC, GCOS – 92,October (2004) (WMO/TD No. 1219). ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-05

The Second Report on the Adequacy of the Global Observing Systems for Climate in Support of the UNFCCC, GCOS-82, April 2003 (WMO/TD No. 1143) ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-18

UNFCCC, SUBSIDIARY BODY FOR SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL ADVICE, Twenty-fifth session, Nairobi, 6–14 November 2006, Item 6 of the provisional agenda, Research and systematic observation. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-15

U.S. Arctic Research Commission Permafrost Task Force (2003) Climate Change, Permafrost, and Impacts on Civil Infrastructure. Special Report 01-03, U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Arlington, Virginia. ECV-T7-permafrost-ref-03

World Meteorological Organization - WMO (1997). Global Climate Observing System: GCOS/GTOS Plan for terrestrial climate-related observations, Version 2.0. GCOS-32, WMO/TD-No. 796, UNEP/DEIA/TR97-7, WMO, Geneva, Switzerland, 130 pp.

Relevant Web links

Listed below are the links to the major institutions involved in permafrost measurements. New links are welcome.


TEMS variables and T-sites

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring Sites (TEMS) database contains details on ecological variables and research sites which are undertaking ecological measurements.

We would like to thank the following individuals for having provided inputs and comments to the biomass ECV.

. Monica Monteduro

. Reuben Sessa
Josef Cihlar
Roger Barry
Mark Nixon


We welcome your inputs, comments and queries. Please send feedback to the GTOS Secretariat.

The above activities are part of Task Number CL-06-03 of the GEOSS implementation plan of GEO.

T1-River | T2-Water Use  | T3-Ground Water | T4-Lake | T5-Snow | T6-Galciers |
T7-Frost | T8-Albedo | T9-Land | T10-fAPAR | T11-LAI | T12-Biomass | T13-Fire |
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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   11 November 2009