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Monthly Archives: November 2016 − News


Autumn in Spits­ber­gen breaks all records

Even though it is gra­du­al­ly get­ting col­der in Spits­ber­gen, the news about record-brea­king tem­pe­ra­tures in the Arc­tic are not stop­ping. For six years, Sval­bard has been signi­fi­cant­ly war­mer than usu­al, and the tem­pe­ra­tures in Novem­ber were up to 10 degrees abo­ve average.

The con­se­quen­ces of some days of extre­me wea­ther with strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on in Novem­ber: At least 50 lands­li­des and avalan­ches were obser­ved, parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en even had to be evacua­ted.

Cli­ma­te chan­ge also threa­tens the shores, houses and huts. The sea has ero­ded the unf­ro­zen, loo­se ground, which in Novem­ber should have been hard by frost. The hut on the left in the pic­tu­re had to be left for safe­ty rea­sons. Image: ©Rolf Stan­ge

climate changes threatens houses and cottages

Also in other parts of the Arc­tic it beco­mes obvious: It is quick­ly get­ting war­mer than befo­re. This app­lies both to the tem­pe­ra­tures on land as well as in the sea, whe­re up to four or even five (Isfjord, near Lon­gye­ar­by­en) degrees more have been mea­su­red. In some Arc­tic regi­ons, the air tem­pe­ra­tu­re was actual­ly 20 degrees abo­ve average (north pole).

And never befo­re has the­re been so litt­le ice on land as on the sea. Tri­cky: ice reflects the sun’s radia­ti­on. The less ice floats on the sea, the dar­ker the sea sur­face and the more sunshi­ne is absor­bed. Rese­ar­chers are worried that the sum­mer sea ice might disap­pe­ar com­ple­te­ly from the Arc­tic.

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, nobo­dy is cur­r­ent­ly expec­ting a good ice win­ter with fro­zen fjords for the 2017 sea­son.

On Spits­ber­gen it has been obser­ved for some time that the per­ma­frost ground is get­ting war­mer and begins to thaw. This can lead to sett­le­ment dama­ges on buil­dings, as they are cur­r­ent­ly alrea­dy obser­ved in several cases in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. In other Arc­tic regi­ons such as Sibe­ria, the thawing of per­ma­frost ground in mar­shy are­as, which have stored a lot of orga­nic mate­ri­al in the cold soil, also leads to the release of lar­ge amounts of the high­ly aggres­si­ve green­house gas metha­ne, which fur­ther sti­mu­la­tes cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Cli­ma­te chan­ge is no lon­ger a sca­ry news­pa­per mes­sa­ge on Spits­ber­gen, but an ever­y­day expe­ri­ence with effects on peo­p­les’ dai­ly life. More warm win­ters, avalan­ches and lands­li­des and evacua­tions have to be expec­ted in Spits­ber­gen in the com­ing years.

Sources: NRK, Cli­ma­te Home

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

Extre­me wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (III): Eva­kua­tions can­cel­led

All evacua­tions in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have been can­cel­led. The wea­ther is calm and the aut­ho­ri­ties have esti­ma­ted the situa­ti­on as safe. Slo­pes that may pro­du­ce lands­li­des will be moni­to­red.

The way west of the cam­ping site towards Bjørn­da­len remains clo­sed. This makes an area inac­ces­si­ble whe­re many locals have leisu­re huts. It is pos­si­ble to walk to the huts, which is, howe­ver, not prac­ti­ca­ble for many pur­po­ses. The huts will only be acces­si­ble again by regu­lar means when the road is ope­ned again or the ter­rain is sui­ta­ble for snow mobi­le traf­fic. Neit­her of the­se opti­ons is cur­r­ent­ly in view.

Some of the huts in this area will have to be moved or aban­do­ned. It has hap­pen­ed befo­re in Spits­ber­gen that huts end­an­ge­red by coas­tal ero­si­on whe­re moved. The most famous examp­le is Fred­heim, the famous trap­per hut in Tem­pel­fjord, which was moved away from the coast in 2015. One or the other hut bet­ween Ves­t­pyn­ten (near the cam­ping site) and Bjørn­da­len will recei­ve a simi­lar tre­at­ment and be moved at least to the other side of the road.

When and how the way its­elf will be secu­red or relo­ca­ted is ano­t­her and cur­r­ent­ly unans­we­red ques­ti­on.

The famous trap­per hut at Fred­heim was moved away from the coast in spring 2015 due to coas­tal ero­si­on.

Fredheim, Tempelfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, local gos­sip.

Extre­me wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (II): evacua­ti­on held upright

Extre­me wea­ther with strong winds and a lot of pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on has held Lon­gye­ar­by­en in awe during the night from Mon­day to Tues­day. The­re was a fear for lands­li­des from steep and lar­ge­ly water-satu­ra­ted slo­pes near are­as with living houses and infra­st­ruc­tures. Several roads were clo­sed and a num­ber of houses were evacua­ted Mon­day after­noon.

The­re have been several minor lands­li­des, but no dama­ge except from com­pa­ra­tively minor dama­ge to a dog yard near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The dogs in kennels at risk had been moved to other kennels befo­re, all ani­mals are well and safe.

On the coast bet­ween the cam­ping site and Bjørn­da­len, coas­tal ero­si­on is incre­a­sing due to high water and surf on unf­ro­zen ground. Several cabins and parts of the roads are at risk and likely to get lost on the long term.

The admi­nis­tra­ti­on, howe­ver, has deci­ded to keep evacua­tions upright until fur­ther noti­ce. Slo­pe pro­ces­ses take their time, and the­re is still a risk of lands­li­des. Peop­le are asked to stay away from steep ter­rain.

Closed and evacuated parts of Longyearbyen due to extreme weather

The mar­ked parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are cur­r­ent­ly (Novem­ber 7) clo­sed due to the extre­me wea­ther. Map © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Extre­me wea­ther in Spits­ber­gen: Lon­gye­ar­by­en part­ly evacua­ted

Octo­ber had alrea­dy been qui­te extre­me in Spits­ber­gen, with unusual­ly warm tem­pe­ra­tures and a lot of rain. The­re were mud­flows from Pla­tå­berg across the road bet­ween the church and Huset, the road was tem­pora­ri­ly clo­sed.

Now it is get­ting worse: up to 50 mm pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on or even more are expec­ted during the night from Mon­day (Novem­ber 7) to Tues­day. Below 500 m alti­tu­de the pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on is expec­ted to fall as rain. Several roads in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en are clo­sed and houses in several roads are evacua­ted becau­se of the risk of avalan­ches.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has issued several warnings. Amongst others, peop­le are reques­ted to stay away from steep ter­rain and from old buil­dings such as mines and parts of the old coal cable­car, which may col­lap­se in extre­me winds.

The dan­ger of snow avalan­ches in hig­her ter­rain is high (sta­ge 4).

The wea­ther is expec­ted to calm down Tues­day morning. Fin­gers cros­sed all goes well until then.

P.S. Per­so­nal remark for friends of the aut­hor: our home in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not in the con­cer­ned area.

Closed and evacuated parts of Longyearbyen due to extreme weather

The mar­ked parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are cur­r­ent­ly (Novem­ber 7) clo­sed due to the extre­me wea­ther. Map © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

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