Europe’s Mountains and Permafrost

Switzerland’s alps have a temperature range of 25 degrees celsius to 2 degrees celsius in the valleys.

Switzerland has specially adapted plants related to its climate. The plants generally have:

  • Bright pigments to protect from UV radiation
  • Bright colours to attract pollinating insects
  • Hairs on their leaves to reduce transpiration and water loss
  • Waxy coatings to reduce water loss
  • The ability to store water

They also:

  • Grow close to rocks to avoid trampling
  • Grow close to the gtound to reduce water loss due to lower wond speeds at ground level.

As forests die away when altitude increases, roots cannot hold the system in place, so avalanches become more prevalent.


Permafrost throughout Europe is melting and threatening alpine facilities, such as villages and ski resorts. Temperatures within a borehole within St Moritz mountain have been shown to have risen by 0.5 degrees since 2000, which may not sound like a lot, but as the internal tempertures were -2 degrees Celsius it could easily lead to the loss of the ice upon it.

The Permafrost and Climate in Europe organisation (PACE) was set up to monitor the effects of climate upon the alps. Permafrost exists as far south as the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain. In Sweden permafrost can be found at an altitude of just 1500m.  In Svalbard, Ice has been found at sea level.

Ranges being monitored include:

  • Pyrenes; Spain, Andorra, France
  • Jotunheimen range; Norway
  • Abisko range; Sweden.

In Svalbard boreholes have been dug into the ice where coal is mined out if the permafrost. The mine buildings have been built from frozen steel. However, this causes issues as the bases of the building can melt ice and permafrost. Thus the buildings could cause subsidance if enough melting occured.

Subsidance could also be an issue in the higher ski resorts where foundations of ski liffs and other buildings; they have been built with the assumption that the ground will remain stable.


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