The International Permafrost Monitoring Network and Service, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) programs under the Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC) and the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) program have identified Permafrost Active Layer and Permafrost Thermal State as key cryosphere variables for their global network. Changes in permafrost temperatures frequently reflect changes in surface climate over time, and therefore serve as a useful indicator of climatic change. At its February 1999 Steering Committee meeting, the GCOS approved development of the Global Terrestrial Network-Permafrost (GTN-P). The International Permafrost Association (IPA) was charged with managing the development and implementation of the GTN-P. Letters of invitation are sent by GCOS to participating countries and organizations.
At its meeting in June 1998 at Yellowknife, Canada, the IPA Council passed two resolutions facilitating development of a permafrost monitoring network and service, including the establishment of a Working Group on Southern Hemisphere Permafrost and Periglacial Processes to assist in these activities. The IPA subsequently prepared strategy and implementation documents consistent with the GCOS monitoring observations. A 12-country, 80-site network already exists under the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) network. An IPA survey indicates that some 200 boreholes of varying depths are available for monitoring temperature changes. The European Community project Permafrost and Climate Change in Europe (PACE) has instrumented a series of nine boreholes in mountains from Spain and Italy to Svalbard. Experience gained in developing the IPA Global Geocryological Database can be applied to the data management requirements of the GTN-P.
Participation in the GCOS/GTOS networks can facilitate use of the data by international organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), and improve justification for national and multi-national funding. The initial role of the IPA permafrost network is to organize the systematic collection and distribution of standardized data; the latter as part of the Global Geocryological Database. Beginning in 2000, summaries and interpretations of data are prepared every five years.
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