International Geologiical Congress - Oslo 2008

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GHZ-02 Geohazards and risk studies under glabal environmental change

 

Cryoslope svalbard - climate change effects on high arctic mountain slope processes and their impact on traffic in Svalbard

 

Hanne Christiansen, The University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS (Norway)
Ole Humlum, University of Oslo (Norway)
Knut Stalsberg, Geological Survey of Norway (Norway)
Anna Sjoblom, The University Centre in Svalbard (Norway)
Ullrich Neumann, The University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS (Norway)
 

 

Ground based transportation in high arctic Svalbard takes place across the surface of a high relief landscape affected by various active slope processes. Due to the increasing population and an increasing number of visitors, especially the winter traffic is increasing. Except for about 40 km of roads in and near the main settlement Longyearbyen, cross-country winter roads are the only available transport routes for Svalbard residents traveling to and from work between Longyearbyen and Svea, and for recreational use by the Svalbard population in general. Also an increasing number of scientists and tourists travel across the snow covered landscape.
Global climate models project future increases in surface air temperature and precipitation in high northern latitudes. This represents a potential challenge toward safeguarding future winter traffic, requiring improved knowledge of climate change effects on slope processes, including snow avalanches. This is the main focus for the research in the project CRYOSLOPE Svalbard. The main scientific question studied is how mountain slopes in Svalbard will respond to future projected climatic changes, and how underlying permafrost may influence such changes.
CRYOSLOPE Svalbard combines investigations of past geomorphological slope activity with monitoring of modern slope processes. Extensive winter monitoring of avalanches and the development of a database with all slope process observations are key parts of the study. Meteorological stations are established in selected study areas along some of the most important winter routes. By this the project aims at providing a process-climate based prediction of future slope process activity in Svalbard. Specifically, the project addresses how potential future changes in slope activity might affect traffic on the roads of the Longyearbyen settlement, and on the surrounding 70 km most used winter roads connecting Longyearbyen with other settlements and main tourist attractions in Svalbard.
A main output from the project will be projections of future slope process activity based on acquired knowledge on past and modern slope landform activity and meteorology. A database will be established, including geomorphological maps of the study areas, with old and modern observations on all types of slope landform activity within the study areas, covering the project period and the previous 100 year period with meteorological observations from Svalbard. These outputs will be important for future infrastructure planning in Longyearbyen, and for evaluating issues relating to safety and costs of transport along the most used summer and winter roads in Svalbard. Read more at www.skred-svalbard.no.

 

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