Photo of Professor Stephan Gruber

Professor Stephan Gruber

Permafrost and impacts of its thaw; Cold environments at high latitude or elevation

Degrees:Ph.D. (UZH, Switzerland)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2562
Office:B443A Loeb Building


Stephan Gruber is professor of physical geography with expertise in mountain and polar environments. His research focuses on permafrost and related phenomena with the aim to better predict ice loss in the ground and the hazards that can result from this. The research group and projects he leads bridge fundamental and applied research, combine field observation and computer simulation, and are centred around collaborations with government, industry, and academic groups in differing disciplines.

From 2013–2023, Stephan Gruber held the Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Impacts/Adaptation in Northern Canada. Previously, he worked at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Université de Savoie (France). He studied in Zurich, Switzerland (PhD in Natural Science, 2005); Giessen, Germany (MSc in Physical Geography, 2000); Enschede, the Netherlands (Special Programme in Environmental Systems Analysis and Monitoring, 1999) and Rovaniemi Finland (Diploma in Arctic Studies, 1997).

Key roles:

  • NSERC CREATE for training tomorrow’s LEAders in Permafrost thaw and northern research (CREATE LEAP), program director, 2023–2029
  • NSERC Permafrost Partnership Network for Canada (PermafrostNet), scientific director, 2019–2025
  • Canada’s Changing Climate Report 2025, coordinating lead author cryosphere, 2024–2025
  • IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, lead author, 2017–2019
  • Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP), lead author, 2016–2018
  • The Cryosphere, co-editor-in-chief, 2009–2017

2024 – 2025

  • On Sabbatical

Research and research group

Publications are listed on Google ScholarResearcherID, and ORCID.

Stephan Gruber’s research aims to anticipate and quantify the impacts that local disturbance (human activity, fire) and global climate change have on geohazards and natural systems in permafrost areas. The research program is focused on Quantifying Permafrost Thaw, i.e., the loss of ice in the subsurface, and the persistent changes in physical characteristics of ground materials that this causes. Research and training in the group of Stephan Gruber has three complementary components:

  • Computer simulation and data analysis: The group develops and operates tools for simulating and analyzing the ground thermal regime as well as phase change and water transport. These can be driven with observations, atmospheric reanalyses and run in high-performance computing environments. A database for observations allows combining field data and simulations for a high number of locations, effectively.
  • Field observations: Field sites in northern Canada are operated jointly with local scientists. Observation methods employed include continuous subsidence monitoring, temperature observations in boreholes and near the surface, measurements of liquid water content in boreholes, and geophysical techniques to quantify ice and water content in the subsurface.
  • Laboratory experiments: The Geocryology laboratory has equipment for temperature calibration, measurement, and control. Instruments for measuring thermo-physical soil properties as well as for temperature-dependent dielectric spectroscopy of frozen soil are available.