Regional modelling of present, past and future potential distribution of discontinuous permafrost based on a rock glacier inventory in the Bagnes–He´re´mence area (Western Swiss Alps)
A regional model was used to draw the permafrost distribution in the 200 km2 of the Bagnes-Hérémence area (Western Swiss Alps). The model is based on the fact that permafrost distribution depends mainly on altitude and orientation and that the minimal altitude of active/inactive rock glaciers can be used as an indicator of the lower limit of discontinuous permafrost. The lower limit of relict rock glaciers is also used as an indicator of past distribution of permafrost. An inventory of rock glaciers was therefore made in the study area. The lower limit of permafrost during the Younger Dryas was determined by comparing the position of relict rock glaciers and glacier extension during the Older Dryas. The model was then applied to four periods (Younger Dryas, Little Ice Age, current period and future) in order to show the temporal evolution of permafrost distribution and glacier extension.