Engineering aspects

The SamCot program continues with 6 focus areas one being Coastal Technology where the objective is to develop knowledge and analytical and numerical models of coastal erosion in the Arctic. The Samcot program is organised as a Center for Reaserch-based Innovation (CRI) running until 2019 with NTNU, UNIS and Sintef as main contributors. The Moscow State University was also a significant contributor. Field work has been carried out both in Russia and Svalbard as can be seen below:

Figure 1.

During 2015 temperature and erosion measurements were continued at Vestpynten, Svalbard and work on analytical modelling was intensified. The analytical work included both Thermo-Hydraulic-Mechanical modelling, effect of Thermo Denudation and sediment transport in water. In December Emilie Guegan defended her PhD with a dissertation titled: Erosion of permafrost affected coasts: rates, mechanisms and modelling at NTNU. Further information can be found through the Samcot webpage

Use of crushed rock

A research program on “Frost Protection of Roads and Railways” was started with the primary objective of building knowledge on behavior of crushed rock and subgrade under cold climate conditions resulting in upgraded design methods for frost protection layers for roads and railways. The project is managed by Elena Kuznetsova at NTNU and collaborates with the Laval University in Canada. The work will continue for several years and include two PhD programs. Preliminary results were presented in September 2015 during the 68th Canadian Geotechnical Conference and the 7th Canadian Permafrost Conference in Quebec, Canada. Further work will be presented at the XI. International Conference on Permafrost in Postdam.
Additional engineering news related to Svalbard
Infrastructure development and permafrost engineering activities in Svalbard has to a large extent been dependent on the mining industry.
The recent decline in coal prices on the world market has seriously affected the mining industry in Svalbard. It is likely that the coal mine in Sveagruva will be (temporarily?) closed from the summer of 2016.
However, it is possible that the research infrastructure facilities in Longyearbyen will be extended in the coming years. There are also plans being made for a major port development to serve increased tourism and other industry in the Barents region.
These projects represents interesting challenges for permafrost engineers as the soil conditions are characterized by saline, relative warm permafrost (marine silty clay) and unstable submarine slopes.
In the future it is possible that research, education and tourism will take over for the traditional coal mining industry as the main activities on Svalbard.

Report by the CRYONOR group

Geology Department, UNIS

In 2015 the periglacial research group in the Geology Department of The University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS, did a winter permafrost drilling campaign in Ny Ålesund (Svalbard), using the UNIS permafrost drill rig. A permafrost borehole down to 40 m were drilled, cores were partially collected, the boreholes cased to be later instrumented for continuous ground thermal monitoring by Italian colleagues. Kings Bay (Ny Ålesund) was also involved in this project.
In June-July 2015 the second of two planned AG-218/219 ‘International Bachelor Permafrost Summer Field Schools’ as part of the University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Permafrost was held at UNIS in close cooperation with University of Alaska Fairbanks and other partners in this network. 20 students from eleven different countries took this 5 or 10 ECTS course, which had as the main aim to provide an overview of how diverse permafrost studies are in modern Earth System Science, from potential carbon release due to increased permafrost thawing to conditions for infrastructure on permafrost.
PhD student Graham Gilbert has continued working in our group in the DEFROST Nordic Center of Excellence Project on ground thermal analyses, but also on cryostratigraphy. He has been fieldworking at Zackenberg in NE Greenland summer 2015. Our Page21 PhD student Stefanie Cable continue working on the last part of her PhD thesis on geomorphological and geocryological mapping of the Adventdalen and Zackenberg area for her PhD thesis.
Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
By Ivar Berthling and Radmil Popovic work was continued on sorted circle dynamics on Kvadehuksletta, Svalbard. The work was done in collaboration with University of Oslo (Luc Girod/Andreas Kääb - close-range aerial photos using structure-from-motion) and University of Zürich (Alexander Bast, Isabelle Gärtner-Roer - 2,5 D ERT imaging and soil moisture/temperature monitoring). On the same occasion, the Brøggerbreen rock glacier was remeasured for displacement monitoring, providing a series of measurements that goes back to 1998 - although not at annual intervals. The rock glacier was also investigated with 2,5 D ERT and GPR measurements, and surface topography mapped with terrestrial LiDAR. The ERT measurements were performed along length profiles of 10 m spacing covering the main part of the rock glacier. All the fieldwork was carried out during a Norwegian Research School in Geography summer field course.

Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo (UiO)

2005 marked the final year of the project period in CryoMET (Bridging scales for the terrestrial Cryosphere, PI: Etzelmuller, funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN)), where we this year mainly focused on including the subgrid variability of snow in permafrost models and down-scaled climate models (Gisnås, Schanke Aas, Westermann, Schuler). The field areas were sites in southern Norway and Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard. The work resulted in a permafrost model approach which includes the sub-grid variability of snow, which has been applied and validated for Norway.
This year started the COUP project (Constraining uncertainties in the permafrost-carbon feedback, funded by JPI-CLIMATE/RCN) led by the University of Stockholm, with WP leadership at UiO (Westermann). Here, we instrumented some palsa mires at several sites in the Finnmark county, northern Norway, and took high-resolutions images by UAV at different sites in northern Norway and northern Sweden (Etzelmuller, Westermann, Eiken).
We also started the SATPERM project (Satellite-based Permafrost Modeling across a Range of Scales, funded by RCN), with Westermann as applicant and project leader, where we use satellite-based products to force permafrost models from global to more local scales. Within this project several sites are or will be instrumented for validation, such as sites in Finnmark/northern Norway, Svalbard/Ny-Ålesund, Russia, Greenland and Mongolia.
In 2005 we also started the RCN-funded project Cryowall (Steep rock walls in Norway, PI Etzelmuller, co-operation with TU Munich (Kreautblatter), Met Norway (Isaksen) and NGU (Herrmanns)), where we systematic assess the distribution, thermal regime and stability parameters of steep slopes in permafrost in Norway. This summer we implemented 15 new rockwall data loggers in 5 different localities both in southern (Romsdalen, Loen-area) and northern Norway (Lyngen-Kåfjord area), a.o. with the help of French partners (Magnin). The TU Munich (Krautblatter, Jakobs) prepared and took samples for rock stability analysis and modeling from sites in the Kåfjord area, while the NGU (Herrmanns, Hilger) took samples for CN dating, trying to decipher the evolution of rock slope movement during Holocene. In 2015 we compiled a first map of rock walls in permafrost (Steiger), and worked on a systematic assessment of the thermal regime in steep slope setting using 2D numerical modeling (Myhra).
In terms of student and Faculty exchange, we started the small activity CRYOEAST (funded by SIU – Center for internationalizing education), which is a cooperation between UiO (PI Etzelmuller, with Westermann, Dunse, Schuler, Hagen, Lilleøren) and Hokkaido University in Sapporo (PI Ishikawa, with Sugiyama, Greve). In 2005 we offered a permafrost modeling course in Sapporo for Norwegian and Japanese students and Faculty.
Other activities from UiO are related to finalizing a new Nordic Permafrost Map (Gisnås and Nordic partners), evaluating our Norwegian rock glacial inventory especially in sites in northern Norway (Lilleøren), complete a full palsa inventory for the county of Finnmark (Frogner Borge, Solheim), re-instrument the permafrost boreholes in Iceland (Westermann, Dunse) and read-out and maintain our 15 boreholes in both southern and northern Norway (Etzelmuller). We have continued also our intense co-operations with other partners in 2015, such with Finland (Prediction modeling of palsa and rock glaciers, transfer of models, Etzelmuller/Lilleøren/Hjort), France (energy balance modeling of rock walls, Westermann/Magnin) and Germany (AWI, process modeling of thermo-karst in Russia, Westermann/Boike/Overduin/Langer).


Figure 2. Ice-cored moraines and steep rock walls at Gjuvbreen glacier, Juvvasshøe, central southern Norway, August 31, 2015. Photo: Ole Humlum.

Report prepared by Gisle Hâland ( and Ole Humlum (