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Daily Archives: 16. December 2016 − News & Stories


The ava­lan­che risk report for Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been published

The ava­lan­che risk report for Lon­gye­ar­by­en is now available. After the dead­ly ava­lan­che on Decem­ber 19, 2015 and the pre­cau­tio­na­ry evacua­tions in ear­ly Novem­ber 2016, the report has been awai­ted with eager­ness. It was com­pi­led by NVE (Nor­ges vass­d­rags- og ener­gi­di­rek­to­rat, Nor­we­gi­an direc­to­ra­te for waters and ener­gy within the minis­try for oil and ener­gy) and it is based on maps and aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy, ter­rain mode­ling, cli­ma­te ana­ly­sis, his­to­ri­cal expe­ri­ence, on-site inves­ti­ga­ti­ons and com­pu­ter mode­ling.

For the public, the results are more rele­vant than the metho­di­cal back­ground. The report includes a map that shows end­an­ge­red are­as in three colours. The are­as whe­re dama­ge cau­sed by ava­lan­ches hap­pens with a likeli­hood of 1:5000 per year is mark­ed in yel­low. In other words: dama­ge cau­sed by an ava­lan­che has to be expec­ted every 5000 years – sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, that is.

Are­as mark­ed oran­ge have an annu­al risk of 1:000 or ava­lan­che dama­ge every 1000 years. And then the­re are the red are­as, whe­re an ava­lan­che has to be expec­ted once per cen­tu­ry. The risk of a devas­ta­ting event is one per cent every year.

This risk assess­ment includes snow and slush ava­lan­ches, muds­li­des and rock­falls. Some parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are “only” expo­sed to par­ti­cu­lar hazards within this list. This can mean that dif­fe­rent are­as may be expo­sed to dan­ger at dif­fe­rent sea­sons or in dif­fe­rent wea­ther situa­tions.

A first look at the ava­lan­che risk map makes the view­er take a breath. No less than 154 flats as well as two guest hou­ses are insi­de the red zone. The­se addres­ses are faced with an annu­al risk of 1:100 of a poten­ti­al­ly cata­stro­phic event, caus­ing gre­at dama­ge and put­ting life at risk.

The obvious ques­ti­on is how Lon­gye­ar­by­en will deal with this situa­ti­on. it is clear that the opti­on to move all the hou­ses con­cer­ned quick­ly to safe are­as is not available. That will neither tech­ni­cal­ly nor poli­ti­cal­ly and finan­ci­al­ly be pos­si­ble, and the­re is the issue of space being available in suf­fi­ci­ent quan­ti­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (remem­ber, it is a val­ley, and the­re are rivers, slo­pes and a fjord not far from whe­re­ver you are). As a result, the hou­ses will remain whe­re­ver they are at least for quite a while.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en will obvious­ly be deve­lo­ped in are­as that are not end­an­ge­red, making sure as much housing as pos­si­ble will be available in the­se are­as in the future. Secu­ring dan­ge­rous slo­pes with tech­ni­cal will also be dis­cus­sed.

For the time being, the­re is no other opti­on but kee­ping the ava­lan­che war­ning sys­tem upright and evacua­te end­an­ge­red addres­ses in risk situa­tions.

It was empha­si­zed that the­re is a num­ber of com­mu­ni­ties in Nor­way who are in simi­lar situa­tions. In the end, it is nor­ma­li­ty in a moun­tain and win­ter coun­try such as Nor­way, and com­mu­ni­ties will natu­ral­ly have to deal with that. This has recent­ly been igno­red in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. A high pri­ce was paid in Decem­ber 2015.

It can be taken for gran­ted that poli­ti­ci­ans from the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lokals­ty­re) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to rele­vant depart­ments in Oslo have got some home­work to do. Mean­while, inha­bi­tants of many hou­ses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will have to live with tem­po­ra­ry evacua­tions on a short war­ning during ava­lan­che risk wea­ther.

Ava­lan­che risk map for Lon­gye­ar­by­en (NVE).

Avalanche risk map Longyearbyen

Direct link to the ava­lan­che report and direct link to the ava­lan­che risk map.

Sources: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

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