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Keywords:

  • permafrost;
  • steep bedrock slopes;
  • climate change

[1] Permafrost in steep bedrock is abundant in many cold-mountain areas, and its degradation can cause slope instability that is unexpected and unprecedented in location, magnitude, frequency, and timing. These phenomena bear consequences for the understanding of landscape evolution, natural hazards, and the safe and sustainable operation of high-mountain infrastructure. Permafrost in steep bedrock is an emerging field of research. Knowledge of rock temperatures, ice content, mechanisms of degradation, and the processes that link warming and destabilization is often fragmental. In this article we provide a review and discussion of existing literature and pinpoint important questions. Ice-filled joints are common in bedrock permafrost and possibly actively widened by ice segregation. Broad evidence of destabilization by warming permafrost exists despite problems of attributing individual events to this phenomenon with certainty. Convex topography such as ridges, spurs, and peaks is often subject to faster and deeper thaw than other areas. Permafrost degradation in steep bedrock can be strongly affected by percolating water in fractures. This degradation by advection is difficult to predict and can lead to quick and deep development of thaw corridors along fractures in permafrost and potentially destabilize much greater volumes of rock than conduction would. Although most research on steep bedrock permafrost originates from the Alps, it will likely gain importance in other geographic regions with mountain permafrost.