International Permafrost Association

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International Permafrost Association
Abbreviation IPA
Formation 1983
Region served
Official language
English, French
Parent organization
International Union of Geological Sciences
Website IPA Official website
Extent of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere.

The International Permafrost Association (IPA), founded in 1983, has as its objectives to foster the dissemination of knowledge concerning permafrost and to promote cooperation among persons and national or international organisations engaged in scientific investigation and engineering work related to permafrost and seasonally frozen ground. The IPA became an Affiliated Organisation of the International Union of Geological Sciences in July 1989.

Permafrost or perennially frozen ground is defined as earth material that remains at or below 0 °C for at least two consecutive years. As such, upwards of 25% of Planet Earth is underlain to some degree by permafrost and in extreme conditions reaches depths of 1500 meters. Permafrost occurs in the high latitudes and mountains and plateaus of both hemispheres.


The Association’s primary responsibilities are to convene International Permafrost Conferences, undertake special projects such as preparing databases, maps, bibliographies, and glossaries, and coordinate international field programmes and networks. International conferences were held at: West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.A. (1963); Yakutsk, Siberia (1973); Edmonton, Canada (1978); Fairbanks, Alaska (1983); Trondheim, Norway (1988); Beijing, China (1993); Yellowknife, Canada (1998); and Zurich, Switzerland (2003: ICOP 2003). The Ninth International Conference on Permafrost (NICOP) was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, June 29-July 3, 2008 and the Tenth took place in Salekhard, Russia, June 25–29, 2012 (TICOP 2012). The Eleventh International Conference on Permafrost will be held in Potsdam, Germany in 2016. Field excursions are an integral part of each Conference, and are organised by the host country. Regional conferences are organised between the main conferences (in Europe, Russia, China).

Organization and structure[edit]

Membership is through adhering national or multinational organisations or as Associate Members in countries where no Adhering Body exists. The IPA is governed by an Executive Committee and a Council consisting of representatives from 26 Adhering Bodies having interests in some aspect of theoretical, basic and applied frozen ground research, including permafrost, periglacial phenomena, seasonal frost, and artificial ground freezing. Members are: Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America. News from the IPA members are posted on the IPA webpage.[1]

The officers of the seven-member Executive Committee (2012–2016) are:

President: Prof. Antoni Lewkowicz (Canada)
Vice Presidents: Prof. Hanne Christiansen (Norway) and Prof. Vladimir Romanovsky (USA)
Members: Dr. Hugues Lantuit (Germany), Prof. Lothar Schrott (Austria), Dr. Dmitry Sergeev (Russia) and Prof. Ma Wei (China)

The Executive Director is Dr. Inga May (Germany).

The IPA Constitution provides for three categories of Working Group Parties: standing committees (long-term), working groups (5–10 years) and action groups (1–2 years) that organise and coordinate research activities and special projects. The first category includes a Standing Committee for Data, Information and Communication, an International Advisory Committee for the International Permafrost Conferences, and a Standing Committee for Education and Outreach. There are ten Working Groups, each with two co-chairs and some with subgroups. These are:

Antarctic Permafrost and Periglacial Environments
Coastal and Offshore Permafrost (see: Arctic Coastal Dynamics webpage)
Glacier and Permafrost Hazards in High Mountains (see: GAPHAZ webpage)
Isotopes and Geochemistry of Permafrost
Mapping and Modelling of Mountain Permafrost
Periglacial Landforms, Processes, and Climate
Permafrost and Climate
Permafrost Astrobiology
Permafrost Engineering

Details of the Working Parties goals and activities are found on the IPA website.[2]

The International Secretariat is based at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research under the direction of Dr. Inga May (Germany). Annual membership contributions are used for producing and distributing Frozen Ground, and support of Working Parties and committee activities and representations at international meetings.

Publication and Information[edit]

Proceedings of peer-reviewed papers are produced for each International Permafrost Conference by the host country, as are field trip guidebooks. A list of publications is found on the IPA website.[3] The News Bulletin Frozen Ground is published annually and has a distribution of over 2500. Current and back issues are posted online.[3]

The Circum-Arctic Map of Permafrost and Ground-Ice Conditions at a scale of 1:10,000,000 was prepared by an international team and published in the Circum-Pacific map series in 1997.

The CAPS: Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System, version 2.0 CD-ROM is a compilation of global frozen ground data and information.

Permafrost and Frozen Ground: Bibliography 1978 – 2003, Glaciological Data Report GD-31, is an online bibliography of the world’s literature. Both are produced in conjunction with the International Permafrost Conferences and available from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

An illustrated Glossary of Permafrost and Related Ground-Ice Terms in 12 languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Spanish), 278 pages, was produced in 1998.

IPA cooperates with the American Geological Institute by providing literature to its Cold Regions Bibliography Project.

Major activities[edit]

The IPA coordinates and cooperates with several other major international programmes and organizations. Briefly these are:

Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P) is a WMO network for monitoring of the active layer and the Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP). The IPA manages the GTN-P. The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program has 125 reporting stations and TSP has identified over 800 boreholes; both include a total of over 15 participating countries.

Arctic Coastal Dynamics (ACD) is a joint programme with the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the IGBP(International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) - LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone) programme to estimate the organic carbon content and mineral transfer for eroding permafrost onto the Arctic shelves. The IPA is collaborating with the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA).

The IPA has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) programme of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The main areas of cooperation are on the roles of permafrost on water and carbon balances, and data assimilation and modelling.

Beginning in 1995 the IPA and the International Geographical Union (IGU) developed an Agreement of Cooperation, thus making IPA an affiliate of the IGU. The current IGU collaboration is within its Commission on Cold Regions Environments.

Coordination of activities on permafrost, soils and periglacial environments of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands is a joint programme with an Expert Group of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Activities related to glaciers and permafrost hazards in the high mountains (GAPHAZ) are a joint activity with the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) and its newly designated Commission for the Cryospheric Sciences.

The topic of carbon sources and sinks in cold regions soils (cryosols) and permafrost is a joint program with the Global Carbon Project (GPC) and the joint working group on Cryosol of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS).

Recent and future activities[edit]

IPA was actively involved in the International Polar Year International Polar Year (IPY) by participating with four coordinated projects. The Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP) proposes to obtain a ‘snapshot’ of permafrost temperatures throughout Planet Earth during the period 2007-2008. Another objective of TSP is to establish a permanent International Network of Permafrost Observatories (INPO) within the framework of the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P). The three other IPY projects are concerned with Antarctic and sub-Antarctic Permafrost, Periglacial and Soil Environments (ANTPAS) and with the Arctic Circum-Polar Coastal Observatory Network (ACCO-Net) and Carbon Pools in Permafrost Regions (CAPP), and revised regional permafrost maps of Central Asia and the Nordic region. For updated news about IPA activities linked to IPY, see the IPA website.[4]

Several regional permafrost and soils conferences were held and are planned, including:

• The First European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP I) in Rome (Italy), in 2001;
• The Second European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP II) in Potsdam (Germany), in June 2005;
• The Fourth International Conference on Cryopedology, was held in Arkhangelsk (Russia), in August 2005;
• The Asian Conference on Permafrost convenes in Lanzhou (China), in early August 2006 with a field excursion to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau;
• The Ninth International Conference on Permafrost (NICOP) was held in early summer 2008 in Fairbanks (U.S.A.).
• The Third European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP III) was held in July 2010 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.
• The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost (TICOP) took place in June 2012 in Salekhard, Russia.
• EUCOP IV will be hosted by the University of Évora in collaboration with the University of Lisbon in Évora, Portugal in 2014 and ICOP 11 is planned for 2016 in Potsdam, Germany.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frozen Ground, the News Bulletin of the IPA". International Permafrost Association. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  2. ^ "Action Groups". International Permafrost Association. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Publications". International Permafrost Association. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  4. ^ "International Polar Year (2007-2009)". International Permafrost Association. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 

Further reading[edit]

J. Brown & H.H. Christiansen. International Permafrost Association. Episodes, Volume 28, no.4, pp. 301–302, December 2005.

External links[edit]

Information about Permafrost