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Global Permafrost Zonation Index Map

Please download the new KMZ file for Google Earth below if yours predates November 7, 2018. This is necessary due to a server change. We apologize for any inconvenience.

This page documents the data made available together with the Global Permafrost Zonation Index Map published in the reference given below. Please note the limitations of this data as outlined in that paper before you use it. The map has a resolution of 30 arc-seconds (<1km) on a WGS84 lat/lon grid.


The Permafrost Zonation Index (PZI) or a corresponding map color indicates, to what degree permafrost exists only in the most favorable conditions (yellow) or nearly everywhere (blue). These local conditions affecting permafrost occurrence will partly exhibit regional trends (e.g. mean snow cover characteristics or continentality), partly vary over typical distances on the order of several km (e.g. shaded or sun-exposed side of a mountain), and partly over tens to hundreds of meters (e.g. snow drift, vegetation, ground material). These conditions need to be assessed during interpretation, depending on the intended purpose of using the PZI map. This product is likely to be most valuable in remote regions where only sparse reliable information exists.

The accompanying publication points to the importance of heterogeneity and uncertainty in the derivation and use of such permafrost zonation maps.

Citation: Gruber, S. 2012: Derivation and analysis of a high-resolution estimate of global permafrost zonation, The Cryosphere, 6, 221-233. doi:10.5194/tc-6-221-2012. [Link]

Online data access

The easiest way to use the data is to download a kml file for Google Earth or, to use the Web Mapping Service (https://geoserver.geo.uzh.ch/cryogis/wms, e.g. ArcCatalog: GIS Servers > Add WMS Server) for online access to the data. These services contain the Permafrost Zonation Index in a version with and one without the fringe of uncertainty. Additionally, the ruggedness layer is available.

Ronald Schmidt has kindly helped to set-up the first generation web mapping and kml server, Jörg Roth has performed the migration to geoserver in 2018.

Data for ArcGIS

If you want to have a copy of the data for your local GIS project, you can download a tarfile (PF_global_ArcGIS.tar, size: 1.2 GB) that contains everything you need for using it in ArcGIS. When you have downloaded the file, you can extract its content with "tar -xf PF_global_ArcGIS.tar" on a UNIX/LINUX system or with any of the usual tool on a Windows machine. The files you get contain a file geodatabase (pfglobal.gdb) with the data, layer files (*.lyr) that define the color legends and a project file (PZI_global.mxd) that contains a sample map. The project file has relative path names so it should work directly after unpacking.

Raw binary data

The main files are avaialbe for download here. Please consult the README.txt for further instructions.

Permafrost Zonation Index grid

PZI.flt (3.1 GB) Terrain Ruggedness Index

PZI.hdr (0.2 KB) Header file

Ruggedness grid

ruggedness.flt (3.1 GB) Terrain Ruggedness Index

ruggedness.hdr (0.2 KB) Header file

Air temperature grids

MAAT_MEAN.flt (3.1 GB) MAAT average on CRU TS2.0 and NCEP/NCAR and SRTM30

MAAT_MEAN.hdr (0.2 KB) Header file

MAAT_CRU30.flt (3.1 GB) MAAT based on CRU TS2.0 and SRTM30

MAAT_CRU30.hdr (0.2 KB) Header file

MAAT_NCEP30.flt (3.1 GB) MAAT based on NCEP/NCAR TS2.0 and SRTM30

MAAT_NCEP30.hdr (0.2 KB) Header file

Related resources

Online version of the Circum-Arctic Map of Permafrost and Ground-Ice Condition from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).


Stephan Gruber (now at Carleton University: homepage)
Glaciology, Geomorphodynamics & Geochronology
Department of Geography
University of Zurich
Winterthurerstr. 190
CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland
email: stephan.gruber@carleton.ca


The data are provided "as is" and University of Zurich makes no representations or warranties, express or implied. By way of example, but without limitation, University of Zurich makes no representations or warranties of merchantibily or fitness for any particular purpose or that the data will meet your requirements or that the use of the data or documentation will not infringe any third party's patents, copyrights, trademarks or other rights. Furthermore, University of Zurich does not warrant or make any representations regarding use of the data in terms of correctness, accuracy, reliability, or otherwise or that defects in the data will be corrected. University of Zurich will not be liable for any consequential, incidental, or special damages, or any other relief, or for any claim by any third party, arising from the use of the data.