Handbook on periglacial field methods


The  IPA Working Group (WG) on Periglacial Processes and Environments was back in 1993 at the Beijing 6th International Permafrost Conference mandated to produce a handbook on recommended methods to measure periglacial processes. The proposal received additional support at the Berlin meeting of the IPA Council in 1995 when a resolution was passed stating: “Considering the importance of documenting and understanding long-term change in permafrost terrain the IPA recommends: 1) the establishment of an international network for long-term monitoring of the thermal state of the permafrost and active layer in both hemispheres; and 2) the standardization of methods for measurement and site selection…”.

At the 1998 Yellowknife 7th International Permafrost Conference the IPA Council recommended that the single main objective during the next five years for the WG should be the production of a handbook on recommended methods to measure periglacial processes, and that this handbook should be available at the 8th International Permafrost Conference in Switzerland 2003.


The impetus to standardize techniques is drawn from the need to be able compare circumpolar and alpine studies, particularly in the context of global change research. Standardization of methodology has been followed in the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) and in work on the Paleoclimates of Arctic Lakes (PALE), part of Past Global Changes (PAGES) which is a core project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).

The handbook  is intended as a field handbook to be used during both planning and conduct of periglacial field research. Its prime purpose is to contain useful information for efficient fieldwork and by this, act as an aide memoire and a source of inspiration. One fundamental assumption made while compiling the handbook is that the user should be familiar with at least the essentials of the techniques that she or he proposes to employ. For fuller discussions on the relative merits of a wide range of periglacial techniques and for further references on them, the user should consult appropriate textbooks or journals.

The idea of this handbook is to assist in a certain standardization of various measurement techniques, so that studies undertaken at different locations in the northern and southern polar areas and at high altitude produce comparable results. The aim is not to stifle creativity, but to suggest useful methods available at the present. New methods that may be developed in the future can then be compared with the old so that the data will remain comparable.