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Home* News and Stories → Extreme weather in Spitsbergen: avalanches in Nordenskiöld Land

Extreme weather in Spitsbergen: avalanches in Nordenskiöld Land

The extreme weather with strong precipitation last week has triggered more than “just” a few landslides near Longyearbyen. Damage was limited to minor material loss at a dog yard near Longyearbyen (the first one at the road into Adventdalen). More than 200 people had been evacuated from their homes for several days in case of a major event.

Satellite images have now shown that more than 50 landslides were triggered by the rainfalls just in Nordenskiöld Land between Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. This shows the lack of stability of the terrain during periods with strong rain.

Scientists expect extreme weather events like last week’s with very strong precipitation to increase in frequency and magnitude. Rainfalls of 50 mm within 24 hours or even more are, so far, untypical for the high arctic (“polar desert”). This means that geomorphological slope dynamics including landslides, snow- and slush avalanches and rockfalls.

This will be important knowledge both for arctic outdoor enthusiasts and city planners. Last year, 2 persons died in their homes in a snow avalanche that destroyed several residential houses in Longyearbyen.

Recent satellite image of Nordenskiöld Land in Spitsbergen showing Landslides triggered by last week’s rainfalls. Image: Copernicus/ESA.

Extreme weather: recent avalanches landslides in Spitsbergen

Sources: bygg.no, UiO

last modification: 2016-11-18 · copyright: Rolf Stange