Geology Department, UNIS
The periglacial part of the cryosphere research group in the Geology Department of The University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS was in 2011 coordinated by H.H. Christiansen. She has been on sabbatical during 2011, visiting in spring the Institute of Geology and Geography, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, working with Bo Elberling on comparing the permafrost in NE Greenland to Svablard. Markus Eckerstorfer continued his Ph.D. study on snow avalanches and meteorological control in Svalbard, working also with the CRYOSLOPE Svalbard (2007-2009) NORKLIMA research project data. In the DEFROST Nordic Centre of Excellence research network, focusing on impacts of a changing cryosphere - depicting ecosystem-climate feedbacks from permafrost, snow and ice, a new Ph.D student Jordan Mertes started in November 2011. He will be studying the ground thermal regime of permafrost landforms within the Nordic area including Greenland. We participated in the CryoEx staff and student exchange project together with the Universities of Oslo, Ottawa and Carleton, and Hanne H. Christiansen, was on sabbatical stay at the University of Carleton, visiting Prof. Chris Burn including a field visit to his key research sites in the Mackenzie Delta in summer and autumn 2011. The new EU 7. Framework research project ‘Vulnerability of Arctic permafrost to climate change and implications for global GHG emissions and future climate’ PAGE21 started in November 2011. We are a partner in this project and responsible for the work package on physical dynamics of permafrost. A new Ph.D. student Stephanie Härtel, has been hired to start working in 2012 in the PAGE21 project focussing on physical dynamics of permafrost in Svalbard and Zackenberg, NE Greenland.

In the Norwegian US collaboration project on permafrost, SVALASKA, funded by the Norwegian Research Councils POLRES programme, 7 Norwegian researchers and senior students visited the University of Fairbanks Alaska permafrost laboratory research group headed by Vladimir Romanovsky for 10 days in August 2011, seeing both the campus, its surrounding permafrost research sites including the permafrost tunnel, and did a 4 day field tour up the Dalton Highway visiting the Toolik Field station and reaching the Beaufort Sea at Prudhoe Bay.


Physical Geography, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo
The CRYOLINK project ( has been continued by B. Etzelmüller, S. Westermann, T. Hipp, H. Farbrot, O. Humlum, K.S. Lilleøren, and K. Gisnås , together with K. Isaksen ( and R. Ødegård (HiG), focussed upon 15 shallow permafrost boreholes in southern Norway, and with a permanent geoelectrical monitoring station was established at Juvvasshøe in Jotunheimen. In connection with the CRYOLINK project both a permafrost equilibrium model (K. Gisnås) and a fully transient model version (S. Westermann, T.V. Schuler) was implemented for Norway, driven by gridded daily air temperature and precipitation data provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Water and Energy Directorate. Both models are now operational and will be used for different applications.
The project on mountain meteorology, snow cover, vegetation, ground temperatures and interaction between permafrost and glaciers in southern Norway continues (O. Humlum), and now covers winters with very different meteorological characteristics.
In 2011 the University of Oslo in collaboration with UNIS continued funding for student and faculty member exchange with the University of Ottawa (A. Lewkowicz) and Carleton University (C. Burn) based on a grant provided by SIU (Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Higher Education). This year a common field course was carried out in Yukon, northern Canada, under the leadership of A. Lewkowicz, C. Burn and L. Copland. 10 Faculty and students participated during the field trip.
In 2011, also the Department (B. Etzelmüller) received funding for a Nordic network funded by Nordforsk. The network facilitate co-operation, PhD courses and student exchange between most Nordic Universities working with permafrost-related research (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oulu, Helsinki, UNIS), along with the Meteorological Institutes of Denmark and Norway.

Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Two years of ground surface temperatures have been collected (Regula Frauenfelder) in the Signaldalen valley in the Troms county, Northern Norway. In summer 2008, a large rock-slide had occurred in the Signaldalen. Six temperature devices (Geoprecision M-log5 devices) were installed in rock scree faces close to the release zone and in the nearby soil (UTL devices). The first analyses of the data show MAGST in the rock-free faces slightly below zero for the year 2009/2010 and slightly above zero for the year 2010/2011. The same can be observed for the near surface soil temperatures. A change detection analysis carried out with a Optech Ilris LR laser scanner between summer 2010 and 2011 showed little to no rock fall activity, a fact that was confirmed by the locals living close-by.

Norwegian Meteorological Institute
In 2009-2011 a multidisciplinary study was carried out at the Juvfonne ice patch (1850-2000 m a.s.l., 61.676°N, 8.354°S)[R. Ødegård et al., 2011]. Juvfonne and surrounding terrain is a well-preserved Iron Age hunting station documented by more than 600 registered archaeological artefacts[Nesje et al., in press]. At 10-m depth in Juvfonne the ice temperature is approximately -2 oC based on measurements in one borehole. Radiocarbon dating of organic layers shows ages ranging from 1095 ± 30 BP to 2960 ± 30 BP[Nesje et al., in press]. This gives conclusive evidence that some high altitude ice patches in Jotunheimen have survived since the Bronze Age. This Bronze Age ice is now exposed at or near the surface of perennial ice patches. These finds are consistent with other proxy data from Jotunheimen, and indicates the paleoclimatic significance of high altitude ice patches. The dating of organic material in ice patches can be viewed as a minimum age of near surface permafrost in the area. In this way ice patch studies will offer strongly needed validation of Holocene permafrost modelling [Etzelmuller et al., 2010]. Presently permafrost thicknesses at elevation where we find perennial ice patches (> 1700 m a.s.l.) can be estimated to be more than 100 m. The investigated ice patch Juvfonne covers an altitude range of 1850 to 2000 m a.s.l. and is well within the mountain permafrost zone. Observations of ground thermal regime from previous NFR and EU-funded projects (PACE, CRYOLINK) and BTS data indicate a lower permafrost limit of 1450-1600 m a.s.l. [Hauck et al., 2004; Isaksen, 2001; Isaksen et al., 2002; R Ødegård, 1993; R S Ødegård et al., 1996]. Such potentially old permafrost is now adjusting with current atmospheric and environmental conditions and tends to be in various stages of warming or even thawing [Isaksen et al., 2011].


  • Etzelmuller, B., H. H. Christiansen, T. V. Schuler, H. Farbrot, K. Isaksen, R. S. Ødegård, T. Skaugen, and O. Humlum (2010), Modelling of permafrost and seasonal frost in Norway and Iceland – strategies and examples, paper presented at 29th Nordic Geological Winter Meeting, Geological Society of Norway, Oslo.
  • Hauck, C., K. Isaksen, D. Vonder Mühll, and J. L. Sollid (2004), Geophysical surveys designed to delineate the altitudinal limit of mountain permafrost: an example from Jotunheimen, Norway, Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 15(3), 191-205.
  • Isaksen, K. (2001), Past and present ground thermal regime, distribution and creep of permafrost : case studies in Svalbard, Sweden and Norway.
  • Isaksen, K., C. Hauck, E. Gudevang, R. S. Ødegård, and J. L. Sollid (2002), Mountain permafrost distribution on Dovrefjell and Jotunheimen, southern Norway, based on BTS and DC resistivity tomography data, Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift, 56(2), 122-136.
  • Isaksen, K., R. S. Ødegård, B. Etzelmuller, C. Hilbich, C. Hauck, H. Farbrot, T. Eiken, H. O. Hygen, and T. Hipp (2011), Degrading mountain permafrost in southern Norway - spatial and temporal variability of mean ground temperatures 1999-2009, Permafrost and Periglacial Processes DOI: 10.1002/ppp.728.
  • Nesje, A., L. H. Pilø, E. Finstand, B. Solli, V. Wangen, R. S. Ødegård, K. Isaken, E. Støren, D. I. Bakke, and L. M. Andreasse (in press), Artefacts related to prehistoric reindeer hunting exposed at melting ice patches in southern Norway, and their climatic significance, The Holocene.
  • Ødegård, R. (1993), Ground and glacier thermal regimes related to periglacial and glacial processes: Case studies from Svalbard and southern Norway, Dr.Scient. thesis, 44 pp. pp, University of Oslo, Norway., Oslo.
  • Ødegård, R., A. Nesje, K. Isaken, and T. Eiken (2011), Perennial ice patch studies – preliminary results from a case study in Jotunheimen, southern Norway, paper presented at EGU General Assembly 2011, Vienna.
  • Ødegård, R. S., M. Hoelzle, K. V. Johansen, and J. L. Sollid (1996), Permafrost mapping and prospecting in southern Norway, Norsk geografisk Tidsskrift, 50, 41-54.



Participants in the SVALASKA project meeting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 10 August 2011, on front row left to right: Hanne H. Christiansen, UNIS/UiO; Santosh K. Panda, UAF; Vladimir Romanovsky, UAF; Markus Eckerstorfer, UNIS & Elchin Jafarov, UAF. Middle row from left to right: Alexander Kholodov, UAF; Reginald Muskett, UAF; Kjersti Gisnås, UiO; Bill Cable, UAF & Ronald Daanen, UAF. Upper row from left to right: Sergey Marchenko, UAF; Stephanie Härtel, UNIS; Tom Rune Lauknes, Norut; Guido Grosse, UAF; Sebastian Westermann, UiO; Kenji Yoshikawa, UAF & Bernd Etzelmuller, UiO.

In 2009-2011 Lack of efficient methods for geotechnical soundings in cold permafrost has for many years have limited the possibilities of collection of soil parameters without using sampling techniques in arctic regions of Norway; Svalbard. SINTEF Byggforsk has for several years carried out development and research to find suitable and precise methods for collection of frozen soil parameters. 
In spring 2011 an internal research project, in combination with M.Sc project of Eirin Husdal, was carried out to develop a sounding procedure for efficient sounding in all types of permafrost soils. The method used in this project is mainly based on the Norwegian Totalsounding method with use of ø 76 mm drillbit, hammer and flushing with air. A geotechnical drill rig was used with the following setup:
-    Constant rotation speed: 25-40 rpm
-    Constant penetration force: 5-8 kN
-    Flushing by air 0,9-1,1 MPa/ ~10 m3/min
Results from the study shows that the method has potential, but need further development and tests to be a method that can give good results in all kind of frozen soils, from saline clays to unsaturated gravel.



Drilling and sounding in permafrost at Svalbard (Photo by Jomar Finseth)

NTNU, UNIS and Sintef
A center for research-based innovation (SFI) has been established at NTNU in Trondheim named Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT). The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the industry over a 5 Year period. There will be a mid-way evaluation with possibilities to prolong the project period with additional 3 years. The research will be performed by NTNU, UNIS, SINTEF and 14 other industrial and scientific partners, with NTNU as responsible leader for the project. One of the areas of work for SAMCoT is Coastal erosion and Permafrost. This activity involves observation of coastal erosion and study of site specific erosion rates in both Svalbard and NW Russia. Measurements and modeling of waves, thermal regime and geotechnical processes will play a major role in the research to understand the major factors for coastal erosion in these areas. Other topics connected to study of permafrost within the program are sustainability of arctic coastal structures, climate change effects on arctic coasts and solutions for landfall of pipelines. Goal for the research will be guidelines and technical solutions for the industry regarding operations and constructions on arctic coasts.