This project is funded by the Ministry of Research and Innovation, CNCS – UEFISCDI, within PNCDI III Project number PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2016-0172

Project Title: Exploring permafrost occurrence and evolution in Rila and Pirin Mountains (Bulgaria) using a combined geomorphological, geophysical and dendrochronological approach

Project acronym: PERMBULG

Duration: May 2018 - September 2020

Project description (abstract): Mountain permafrost is a sensitive indicator of climate change, but unlike glaciers is a largely invisible phenomenon and its occurrence is sometimes difficult to be evidenced. Because drilling in remote mountain permafrost areas is expensive and extremely difficult and provides subsurface information only at one site alternative indirect geophysical methods are generally used to investigate the characteristics of permanently frozen ground in alpine environment. Despite that rock glaciers were described in Rila and Pirin Mountains, no systematic research has been conducted to explore permafrost occurrence and evolution in these mountain ranges. Considering that both Rila and Pirin Mountains reach 2900 m height we expect that patches of relict permafrost to occur at altitudes above 2400-2500 m where the pronounced shadow effect of the ridges and the actual climatic conditions allows the preservation of long-lasting snow patches or small glaciers. This research will address for the first time the problem of permafrost presence/absence not only in Rila and Pirin Mountains, but in the Balkan Peninsula too. To meet the main goal of this project a combined geomorphological and geophysical approach will be used. In addition we aim to assess (i) the near-surface thermal regime of the coarse rock glaciers using miniature thermistors; (ii) the movement of the rock glaciers using geodetic surveys, tree-rings analysis and photogrammetry and (iii) the paleoenvironmental significance of rock glaciers considering the deglaciation timing in these mountains, the climatic reconstructions, the geomorphologic analysis of rock glaciers spatial distribution and the Schmidt hammer age dating of rock glaciers.