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Seasonal freeze-thaw cycles and permafrost degradation on Mt. Zugspitze (German/Austrian Alps) revealed by single-station seismic monitoring
  • Fabian Lindner,
  • Joachim Wassermann,
  • Heiner Igel
Fabian Lindner
LMU Munich

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Joachim Wassermann
Ludwig-Maximilians- University, Munich
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Heiner Igel
Geophysics Section
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Thawing of mountain permafrost in response to rising temperatures degrades the stability of rock walls and thereby affects infrastructure integrity in Alpine terrain. In this study, we use 15 years of passive seismic data from a single station deployed near a known permafrost body on Mt. Zugspitze (Germany), to monitor freeze-thaw processes. The recordings reveal a persistent cultural seismic noise source, which we utilize to compute single-station cross-correlations and extract relative seismic velocity changes. We find that parts of the cross-correlations show seasonal velocity variations (∼3% peak-to-peak amplitude) and a long-term velocity decrease (∼0.1%/yr). Comparison with meteorological data and a previous electrical resistivity tomography study suggests that these velocity changes are caused by active-layer freeze-thaw cycles and by permafrost degradation, respectively. The results demonstrate the potential of passive seismology for permafrost monitoring and suggest that denser instrumentation will provide detailed spatio-temporal insights on permafrost dynamics in future studies.
28 Sep 2021Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 48 issue 18. 10.1029/2021GL094659