The Cryosphere (Dec 2022)

Geophysical measurements of the southernmost microglacier in Europe suggest permafrost occurrence in the Pirin Mountains (Bulgaria)

  • G. Georgieva,
  • C. Tzankov,
  • A. Kisyov

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16
pp. 4847 – 4863


Read online

There are no large glaciers in the territory of Bulgaria, but small patches of snow and firn have been observed in the high mountains at the end of summer. Perennial snow patches and microglaciers are considered indicators of permafrost occurrence. The results from the first detailed geophysical investigations of the Snezhnika glacieret, considered to be the southernmost microglacier in Europe, situated in the Golyam Kazan cirque, Pirin Mountains, Bulgaria, are presented in the paper. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and 2D electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) were used to estimate the thickness of the microglacier as well as its subsurface structure. Measurements started in 2018 and continued over the next 2 years in order to assess changes in its size and thickness. The mean thickness of Snezhnika is about 4–6 m, reaching 8 m or probably more in some areas. ERT measurements of the deeper parts of the microglacier beds show high electrical resistivities reaching over 60 000 Ωm at a depth of 4–10 m. An anomaly at this depth is likewise distinguishable on the GPR profiles. These anomalies are interpreted as permafrost areas and were consistently observed on the ERT and GPR profiles in the 2 years of the study. These results imply for the first time the existence of permafrost in the Pirin Mountains and in Bulgaria.