Antarctic Environments and Climate Change Research Group

The year 2009 has been important for Portuguese permafrost research and contributed to the consolidation of research, funding and critical mass. Activities focused on three main subjects: i) Antarctic permafrost and active layer dynamics, led by the Centre for Geographical Studies, University of Lisbon (CEG-UL); ii) Chemistry of Arctic permafrost by IPIMAR; iii) Earth-Mars analogues by CERENA - Instituto Superior Técnico, UTL. 

The CEG-UL is leading the FCT-funded project PERMANTAR in Livingston (LI) and Deception (DI) Islands (Antarctic Peninsula region), which also involves the Centre of Geophysics of the University of Lisbon and Centre of Geophysics of Évora. The project includes also the universities of Alcalá (Spain) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), and the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute. PERMANTAR collaborates closely with the Spanish project PERMAMODEL-IPY. Main activities focused in the the installation and upgrading of permafrost and periglacial processes monitoring sites: i) a new 8 m borehole in LI, ii) three new 4-5m boreholes (collaboration Russian Academy of Sciences) in DI, iii) new CALM-S sites in DI and LI, iv) a meteorological station in LI, v) solifluction, thermokarst and rockglaciers monitoring sites, vi) time-lapse cameras, vii) year-round monitoring with resistivimeter with datalogger in DI, viii) electrical resistivity tomography surveying in LI, and ix) n-factor monitoring sites in DI. Master theses on Antarctic permafrost have been presented by A. Trindade and R. Melo ( Education and outreach activities have been organized, including talks in schools, public lectures and a permafrost film “Permafrost! Polar science at 62ºS” for classroom activities. It will be freely available in DVD to schools and open-access in the Internet. The CEG-UL team continued the scientific coordination of the grant program New Generation of Polar Scientists funded by Caixa Carbono Zero (CGD). This program involves full-time funding of two students on permafrost research in a total of six grants in polar science.

IPIMAR's research on permafrost was conducted in Umuijaq, Northen Québec. The main objectives are studying carbon and contaminant chemistry in thermokarst lakes and their hydrological impact in rivers, sea and snow pack. Measurements of biogas fluxes and sampling of water, ice, snow and sediments for analysis were conducted. Umuijaq is an area of carbon-poor permafrost which contrasts with the results obtained in 2008 in a carbon-rich permafrost area. This study contributes to a better understanding of the impacts of permafrost thaw in the carbon and trace element contaminants cycles.

CERENA continued researching automated mapping and characterization of polygonal networks on Mars. Research focused on the detailed analysis of the NASA Phoenix landing region (around 68º N), which are extensive plains largely occupied by small-scale polygonal terrains. These were difficult to perceive in previous imagery but are now unveiled by the HiRISE camera onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (30 cm/pixel). The huge number of small polygons (diameter around 4 m) demonstrates the necessity of using automated approaches allowing for a detailed mapping of these extensive networks. This will contribute to gather data to help probe into the most widely accepted genetical models, namely thermal contraction of permafrost.  

Gonçalo Vieira, João Canário and Pedro Pina

A revista Frozen Ground de 2007 com as actividades da International Permafrost Association encontra-se já disponível para download.
Nela, encontram-se descritas as actividades de Portugal.


O GIPCA esteve envolvido na organização da Cerimónia de Abertura do Ano Polar Internacional 2007-08, evento que decorreu no Pavilhão do Conhecimento no dia 28 de Fevereiro de 2007.
A sessão contou com mais de 1 centena de participantes e consistiu em várias palestras que ilustram a importância do Ano Polar Internacional:
10h00 - Intervenções da Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa e da Agência Ciência Viva.
10h15 - Palestra "Antarctic and the IPY: Showcasing the Earth Sciences". James Bockheim (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
10h45 - Palestra "From Politics to International Polar Years". Inigo Everson (British Antarctic Survey)
11h15 - Welcome Coffee e Recepção aos Jornalistas
11h30 - Apresentação do Ano Polar Internacional. Luís Mendes-Victor (Presidente do Comité Português para o API)
11h45 - A Estratégia Científica Portuguesa para o Ano Polar Internacional. José Xavier (Comité Português API e projecto LATITUDE60!)
12h00 - LATITUDE60! O Programa Português do Ano Polar Internacional para a Educação. Gonçalo Vieira (Comité Português API e projecto LATITUDE60!)
12h15 - Apresentação da Exposição "As Regiões Polares e o Equilíbrio Ambiental da Terra". Mundicenter.
12h25 - Perguntas e Respostas.
12h45 - Encerramento da Sessão.

Estiveram presentes os Professores José Mariano Gago (Ministro da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior) e João Sentieiro (Presidente da Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) e a Drª
Rosália Vargas (Coordenadora da Agência Ciência Viva).


The research group on Antarctic permafrost at the Centre for Geographical Studies (CEG-University of Lisbon) continued in 2007 the activities in the South Shetlands (Antarctic Peninsula region) under the coordination of Gonçalo Vieira.  The collaboration within the project PERMAMODEL with the University of Alcalá de Henares (Spain) included field work in Livingston and Deception islands with the maintenance and installation of CALM-S sites: Crater Lake in Deception Island; and Reina Sofia Hill and Ramos Col in Livingston Island. Studies on coastal rock platform erosion by brash have started in both islands, with the installation of a series of transverse micro-erosion meter monitoring sites by Mário Neves that participated in this campaign. Alexandre Trindade participated in the Bulgarian Antarctic Campaign in Livingston island and installed a CALM-S site in the vicinity of the Bulgarian station.

In the Antarctic season of 2007-08 the CEG-UL group is co-coordinating the project PERMADRILL/PERMAMODEL, a collaboration with the Spanish and Bulgarian Programmes that includes researchers from the universities of Lisbon, Évora, Alcalá de Henares, Zurich and Sofia. The objective is to drill two 25 m boreholes in permafrost in Livingston and Deception Islands in order to start long-term monitoring sites. This project is funded by the Spanish Polar Programme and by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The collaboration with the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute is continuing in the season of 2007/08 with the project ShallowDrill. This is a partnership between the CEG-UL group and Hilti that is providing drilling equipment for 5-7m boreholes. In this framework a series of shallow boreholes will be drilled in bedrock in the vicinity of the Bulgarian Antarctic Station in order to monitor permafrost and active layer temperatures. Alexandre Trindade will be participating in this campaign.

In the framework of a collaboration between the CEG-UL and the University of Buenos Aires (Alberto Caselli), Raquel Melo will be participating in the Argentinean campaign in January 2007 in Deception Island. She will be conducting detailed geomorphological mapping with the objective of identifying and surveying permafrost degradation sites (i.e. thermokarst and debris-flow activity). The research is complimentary to the themes studied within the CEG-UL group and intends to relate permafrost degradation in relation to climate change and volcanic activity in the island.

From 25 to 27 June the 1st Iberian Conference of the International Permafrost Association was organized by the CEG-UL in Guarda (Central Portugal). The meeting included oral presentations, a poster session and a field-trip to the Serra da Estrela. A workshop of the Iberian group of IPY project ANTPAS was organized, as well as a workshop of the Network of Meteorological Monitoring in the Iberian Mountains. There were 30 participants from Portugal, Spain and the USA. António Gomez Órtiz, Jerry Brown and Raquel Melo were invited for conferences in the opening session. Paper from the conference will be published in the Portuguese Geography journal Finisterra.

The CEG-UL group has also been very active in the implementation of a national programme for polar research. A proposal has been submitted by the Portuguese IPY Committee to the Portuguese Science Foundation and is now under evaluation. In this proposal permafrost research plays a significant role and has been taken as a priority by the Committee.

Portugal has been actively involved in the Permafrost Young Researchers Network with the participation of the national PYRN coordinator (Raquel Melo) in the Abisko meeting in February 2007. Alexandre Trindade is the national representative in the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) and he has attended the Stockholm meeting in September 2007.

Permafrost research has been also a major focus on IPY Education and Outreach activities. The CEG-UL group is co-coordinating (with the Centre of Marine Sciences - University of the Algarve and Association of Geography Teachers) the national IPY E&O project LATITUDE60! that links scientists to society during the IPY. The project is funded by the national agency Ciência Viva and has been enthusiastically received by the public and more than 100 schools and 400 teachers have joined the project. The project is cross-cutting several disciplines and includes students from kinder garden to high school and university level. Several activities with a relationship to permafrost have been going on: 1) an exhibition that has been in 5 major shopping centers in central and northern Portugal; 2) educational DVD on permafrost research to be distributed freely to schools; 3) permafrost scientists go to schools for talks; 4) IPY launch event with a focus on permafrost; 5) daily blogs by permafrost scientists; 6) ask a scientist with the participation of permafrost scientists answering from the Antarctic; 7) videoconference event from the Antarctic with permafrost scientists. One of the main activities that occurred was the national contest “Discover the Polar Regions” that had more than 8,000 students involved. 5 high school students have been selected from the contest and offered trips to the Antarctic within the international expedition Students-on-ice. The blog of the project LATITUDE60! Can be visited at


IPA Portugal – Report 2006

Activities of the Portuguese group during 2006 focused on 1) paleoenvironmental reconstruction of permafrost environments, 2) permafrost of the Maritime Antarctic, 3) preparation of the International Polar Year.

The Centre for Geographical Studies of the University of Lisbon group (CEG-UL) continued the research in the Serra da Estrela mountain range with the objective of developing the chronology of the glaciation of the mountain and to identify the paleo-altitudinal zoning of permafrost and frozen ground conditions in the mountain range. The coordinator of these activities is Gonçalo Vieira. A project focusing on these objectives, but including all the glaciated mountains of Portugal has been prepared and submitted for evaluation. The project involves the universities of Lisbon, Aveiro, A Coruña (Spain), Complutense de Madrid (Spain) and Bordeaux (France). If funding is received the project will enable a strong development of the glacial and periglacial chronology and, new insight into the paleoenvironmental conditions of the Portuguese mountains. Maria Luísa Rodrigues (CEG-UL) has prepared a glossary of karst landforms that includes a significant part on periglacial features. This glossary will be published in the forthcoming months.

Permafrost research in the Maritime Antarctic has been a major field of research in 2006. Gonçalo Vieira has been organising the Research Group on Antarctic Permafrost and Climate Research (GIPCA) at the CEG-UL that includes 6 researchers and 3 collaborators. The group has conducted research in Livingston and Deception Islands in January-February 2006 (CALM-S sites installation, geophysical surveying of permafrost and permafrost and active layer surveying and monitoring). In December 2006, Alexandre Trindade will participate in the Bulgarian Antarctic Campaign in collaboration with the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute (C. Pimpirev and R. Kendorova) that aims to study permafrost distribution and install active layer monitoring sites in Hurd Peninsula (Livingston Island). Mário Neves will be participating in the Spanish Antarctic Campaign to continue the permafrost and active layer research in Deception and Livingston Islands and will also install several Traverse Micro-Erosion Meter sites to measure coastal platform erosion rates. Two projects coordinated by Miguel Ramos (University of Alcalá, Spain), one for the period 2006-07 and another for 2007-09 have been funded by the Spanish Antarctic Programme. These projects are included in the initiative PERMAMODEL – Permafrost and Active Layer Monitoring and Modelling in the Maritime Antarctic, that is part of the IPY core projects ANTPAS and TSP. A project proposal led by Gonçalo Vieira was submitted for funding to the Portuguese National Science and Technology Foundation aiming to install new boreholes in the South Shetlands (Antarctic). Other objectives are permafrost and active layer mapping and modelling, construction of a database of ground physical properties and research on the coupling between mesoscale climate models and the ground temperatures. The project includes researchers from the Centres of Geophysics of the universities of Lisbon and Évora. Besides the collaborations with the Spanish and Bulgarian Antarctic programmes, collaborations within the Argentinian and Brasilian programmes are under preparation.

The preparation of the International Polar Year has occupied a significant part of the work of the members of IPA-Portugal. Due to this effort, the country that despite the historical leading role in polar discoveries has no tradition in polar science research, has now a IPY committee and a document with a proposal for the guidelines for the Science Strategy for the IPY. In this document, Antarctic permafrost research occupies a major role, together with Antarctic biology. The effort also resulted in the national membership of SCAR since July 2006. A significant amount of work is being conducted in E&O activities with a strong presence of permafrost research in all national media. The national E&O programme for the IPY LATITUDE60! counts with the collaboration of several members of GIPCA and already involves more than 100 teachers from kindergarten to university levels. Information in Portuguese can be found at

Gonçalo Vieira (September 2006)