Sintef, NTNU and UNIS

Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU), University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and SINTEF, with NTNU as the host institution collaborate in the program for Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT). The work is organized with six Work Packages (WP's) with one (WP6) on Coastal Technology (organized by Sintef) and one (WP1) on Collection and Analysis of Field Data and Properties (organized by UNIS). SAMCoT is partly funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the industry and is planned to be a 8 year program


The goal for WP6 is to develop guidelines needed by the industry for the design of environmentally friendly and sustainable coastal structures and technology. For this purpose there is a need to increase the understanding of physical mechanisms, with regards to ice, waves and warming permafrost, driving and controlling Arctic coastal erosion. Increased knowledge of these matters will form the basis for development and design of sustainable coastal structures and efficient erosion protection measures along permafrost coasts.

SINTEF and WP6 have since the start-up of SAMCoT in spring 2011 been searching for coastal research sites that would fulfil a number of pre-described terms and conditions. A natural choice for first search was Svalbard, where the cooperation between SINTEF and UNIS makes it possible to perform arctic field investigation on permafrost coasts supplied with excellent research infrastructure and easy access to several possible research sites, leading to the establishment of a field site at Vestpynten outside of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, in 2012.

Figure 1: Eroding coastline of East-Siberian Sea (Photo: Michail Grigoriev, 2008)

Svalbard is yet not a main focus area regarding study of erosion mechanisms. For this field of research it is more interesting to study rates and erosion mechanisms for Arctic coasts with higher erosion rates, and also higher industrial interest, such as the north Russian coast. The scale of coastal degradation in Russia are exceeding all rates known in Svalbard and the complexity connected to ice features in soil, permafrost temperature and soil/ice/water interactions and processes favors the choice of Russian coasts for the purpose of studying the phenomena of arctic coast erosion. Together with the scientific partner Moscow State University (MSU), SINTEF and WP6 have established a research site at the western coast of Baydratskaya Bay in the summer 2012

1.    Field surveys and site establishment
During the summer 2011 SINTEF performed a coastal survey in the area around Longyearbyen and Svea, in order to take pictures, perform measurements and soil sampling for the purpose of establishing one or two main sites for study of arctic coastal mechanisms and rates. A set of described conditions for choosing sites was used with two scenarios in mind:
Establishment of fully instrumented sites
Establishment of satellites
Figure 2: Svalbard between 78° and 80°N           Figure 3: Visited areas in summer 2012

A fully instrumented site is defined as a site with all possible measurements required for studying erosion and potential erosion driving mechanisms, such waves, currents and sediment transport, temperature, other meteorological data, permafrost properties, permafrost properties and thermal properties. A satellite is described as a site where there are fewer, or none, data collecting installations, only periodic observations and field measurements. After the 2011survey, one main site was chosen; Vestpynten, 3 km west of Longyearbyen. This site was among other possible sites elected due to an interesting profile, exposure against open sea (wave action) and increased erosion over the last years found by analysing aerial photos between 1970's and 2011. Together with UNIS the site was instrumented during spring season 2012 with thermistorstrings, piezometers and ADCP (deployed by Prof. Aleksy Marchenko, UNIS) for measurement of wave, currents and sea temperatures in the area. For documentation on erosion events a time elapsed camera is installed near the bluff. The PhD-study of Emilie Guegan, at NTNU, with supervisor Prof. Lars Grande is concerned with investigating the erosion mechanisms at Vestpynten.

Figure 4: Drilling for installation of thermistorstrings at Vestpynten, spring 2012 (Photo, Magne Wold (SINTEF)

Through the cooperation with MSU, two different areas were evaluated as possible research sites at the Northern Russia coast; Varandey and Baydaratskaya Bay. SINTEF was invited for a survey at Yamal Peninzula in June 2011 for a pre-study of coastal and permafrost challenges in the area. During fall and winter 2011-2012 plans was established for field work to be performed as joint activity Through the cooperation with MSU, two different areas were evaluated as possible research sites at the Northern Russia coast; Varandey and Baydaratskaya Bay. SINTEF was invited for a survey at Yamal Peninzula in June 2011 for a pre-study of coastal and permafrost challenges in the area. During fall and winter 2011-2012 plans was established for field work to be performed as joint activity

Figure 5: Varandey/Pesyakov Island , 2: Baydara Bay

For the Varandey alternative WP1 was included in the planning and left responsibility for all activities with SINTEF as scientific advisor in the preparatory and operatory stage of the excursion. Results from this excursion are not included in this paper.

2.    Data collection
In the first year most of the data collection is related to establish several sets of "zero points" especially connected to profile measurements. UNIS has via the SAMCoT project purchased and gained knowledge of a laser scanner which is a valuable tool for regular scanning with  fixed intervals, at Vestpynten, for the 3D coastal profiling. Operating and analysing results from the scanner is a part of PhD candidate David Wrangborg’s (supervised by Prof Aleksey Marchenko) and Post.doc Anatoly Sinitisins work in the SAMCoT WP1 at UNIS. In Baydaratskaya bay a series of profiles are established as manual measurements, and thermistors are installed and samples drilled, which also makes up the data background for two ongoing PhD studies at MSU.
PhD studies at MSU. For the two field sites mentioned above, both soil sampling, laboratory analyses and thermal profiling is a part of the total study. In Vestpynten a series of thermistor strings, measuring temperatures with short depth intervals, are installed to collect thermal data for the whole project period. In Baydaratskaya bay the temperature are measured on site with pre-defined intervals. An example of the coastal temperature nearby Vestpynten is presented in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Temperature profile near Vestpynten (source: SINTEF)

3. Future research
For the coming years in the SAMCoT project, WP 6, the field at Vestpynten will be followed up for measurements and analyses with regards to erosion, sea properties  and the thermal regime in yearly surveys. Measurements at the satellite sites will be carried out according to initial plans and possible new research fields could be established. For the Baydaratskaya bay site yearly surveys are planned to follow up and expand data collection and analyses for the next years as cooperation activity between SINTEF and MSU.
All data collected from the SAMCoT sites will, as deliverable from task 6.1, be used to couple existing, or establish, modelling tools with purpose to model erosion mechanisms and predict erosion rates.


 Figure 7:Permafrost bluff in Baydaratskaya bay (Photo Anatoly Bruchkov, MSU)

Norwegian Meteorological Institute
At PACE drill site Juvvasshøe in southern Norway two digital network cameras and a snow depth sensor were installed as part of the Klimapark2469 high mountain climate monitoring programme (R. Ødegård, K. Isaksen, E. Finstad). In addition a net radiometer was installed at Juvvasshøe to measure the energy balance between incoming short-wave and long-wave far infrared radiation versus surface-re?ected short-wave and outgoing long-wave radiation. This instrument was financed by the CRYOMET-project, led by University of Oslo (B. Etzelmüller).

A new official weather station was established by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute at the mountain Fannaråki (2062 m a.s.l.) in August 2012. A key objective is to link the old observations (1932-1978) at Fannaråki to currently operating mountain stations and establish a long-term series representative for the high mountains of southern Norway, and to study how the mountain climate has varied over the past 80 years (K. Isaksen, Ø. Nordli). Data is available at

On Dovrefjell, southern Norway, collection of temperature data was continued from 11 boreholes (9 m deep) along an altitudinal transect across the mountain permafrost transition zone. These boreholes were drilled and instrumented in October 2001. The objective of the study is to analyse and model the trend and variability of mean annual ground temperatures and to evaluate the influence of the snow cover in a high mountain terrain (K. Isaksen, R.S. Ødegård, T. Eiken). In the same field area data from temperature data loggers was collected as part of a Norwegian monitoring programme for palsa peatlands, co-ordinated by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (A. Hofgaard, K. Isaksen).
In the Troms and Møre and Romsdal area of northern and southern Norway respectively, temperature data collection were continued in a permafrost and climate monitoring project on unstable rock slopes in Norway. The project was established in 2001. (K. Isaksen, T. Eiken, L.H. Blikra).

Figure 8: New measurement station at Fannaraki (photo:

Geology Department, UNIS
In 2012 the periglacial research group in the Geology Department of The University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS, bought a medium sized drill rig for obtaining permafrost cores as part of several research projects. It was tested in the polar night of January, and we then ran a 14 day winter drilling campaign in March-April, in which we collected 30 m permafrost cores from various periglacial landforms in the Adventdalen area. In May the drill rig travelled to Greenland enabling collaboration on permafrost coring in the Zackenberg area in NE Greenland in end of summer, where another 14 day permafrost coring campaign was run.

Markus Eckerstorfer has finished his Ph.D. study with the thesis: ‘Snow avalanches in central Svalbard: A field study of meteorological and topographical triggering factors and geomorphological significance’. In the DEFROST Nordic Centre of Excellence research network, Ph.D. student Jordan Mertes established several new field installations during 2012 both in Svalbard and in NE Greenland. EU project PAGE21 Ph.D. stud. Stefanie Härtel has in 2012 collected permafrost cores in Svalbard and NE Greenland totalling 60 m for detailed cryostratigraphical studies. This she is conducting these studies at the University of Copenhagen at Center for Permafrost, CENPERM. This is a Danish basic research centre, in which also Hanne Christiansen has started in a 20 % position in summer 2012, increasing our collaboration between Svalbard and Greenland on permafrost research.
In 2012 we started a new permafrost remote sensing project, coordinated by the Northern Research Institute, Norut in Norway. It is called PermaSAR: SAR detection of permafrost landscape changes in northern Norway and on Svalbard. In this we aim to upscale field based periglacial landform measurements to landscape scale testing how the InSAR technique will work for various landforms.

UNIS is a partner in the Perma-Nordnet Nordic Council of Ministers cooperation programme supported 3 year education and research collaboration project coordinated by Bernd Etzelmuller, University of Oslo. In the Norwegian US collaboration project on permafrost, SVALASKA, funded by the Norwegian Research Councils POLRES programme, 5 US permafrost researchers and senior students attended and/or taught on the SVALASKA & Perma-Nordnet Ph.D. permafrost modeling course based at University of Oslo in June 2012. The SVALASKA US participants also attended the following joint SVALASKA & Perma-Nordnet field excursion across S Norway studying mountain permafrost.

Figure 9: The new permafrost drill rig work in Adventdalen, Svalbard, 3. April 2012

Physical Geography, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo

In 2012 a new project was started called "CRYOMET - Bridging models for the terrestrial cryosphere and the atmosphere" (Bernd Etzelmüller, Sebastian Westermann, Thomas V. Schuler). The project collaborates with climate modellers to overcome the scale gap between climate and permafrost models, and main focus is snow cover and snow re-distribution.
The study sites are Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard, Jotunheimen in southern Norway and Iskoras/Finmark in northern Norway. At all sites our permafrost monitoring program has been continued. In Mongolia we have started a new collaboration with Yamkhin Jambaljav, Institute of Geography, Mongolian Academy of Sciences and Mamoro Ishikawa, Graduate School of Environmental Science Hokkaido University, Japan, about permafrost modelling in Mongolia, which included visits and field work participation during summer 2012 (Sebastain Westermann).
A project on mountain meteorology, snow cover, vegetation, ground temperatures and interaction between permafrost and glaciers in southern Norway has been continued (O. Humlum).