Tel: +47 79 02 33 00 |

Arctic Hydrology and Climate Change (15 ECTS)


Course period: Autumn semester (August–December), annually.
Course period 2015: 18 August–24 November
Language of instruction and examination: English
Credit reduction/overlap: None
Grade: Letter grade (A through F)
Examination support material: Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue.

Non-programmable calculator.

Course materials: Ca. 600 pages of reading from texts, articles and reports
Course responsible: Nils Roar Sælthun
UNIS contact person: Jan Otto Larsen
Course costs: Fieldwork, NOK 1000 (5 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course capacity min/max: 5/20 students


Required previous knowledge/specific course requirements:
The course is interdisciplinary. Students must meet the prerequisites for UNIS bachelor studies in biology, geology, geophysics or technology. A minimum of one university level course in chemistry and mathematics is required.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will: 

  • Understand the hydrological cycle and the general processes and storages involved, including the importance of phase changes, mass conservation and energy balance.
  • Know the catchment basics – its delineation and functioning as a system. Further, understand the specifics of the Arctic catchment: Permafrost, snow and ice, and glaciers.
  • Have insight in erosion processes and sediment transport in the Arctic environment. 

Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • Make runoff measurements, basic glacier mass balance investigations and snow taxations.
  • Carry out laboratory measurements of sediment concentration and composition.
  • Apply hydrological catchment models for simulations of runoff and mass balance changes.
  • Write and present research reports.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Have insight in and be able to discuss the impacts of climate change on the Arctic environment through the effects on the hydrological cycle.
  • Have insight in the functioning of hydrological models, and the use of them and other hydrological approaches in technological applications.
  • Have gained experience in fieldwork in harsh environments.

Academic content:
Although the teaching in the course is focused on the understanding of the hydrological processes, it has a holistic approach to the concepts of the hydrological cycle and the hydrological systems of the Arctic, which is essential for the understanding of the potential impacts of climate change. 

Specific topics:

  • Climate and hydrology of the Arctic.
  • Hydrometeorological measurements and observations.
  • The Arctic catchment.
  • Permafrost hydrology; river and lake ice.
  • Snow processes.
  • Glaciers and glacier hydrology.
  • Erosion and sediment transport.
  • Hydrological models.
  • Climate change impacts on the hydrological cycle with focus on the Arctic.
  • Technological applications in the Arctic environment.

Learning activities:
The course extends over a full semester. Initially, students attend two days of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training.

The general structure of the course is an introductory part consisting of lectures on central elements of hydrology in general, and the specifics of hydrology and climate change in the Arctic. This part is followed by a five days field course. During the field course the students will work with practical measurements. They will experience work in Artic conditions, learn field observations and methodology, and collect data for their research projects.

The remainder of the course addresses major themes in Arctic hydrology and climate change through sequences of lectures on theory and applications, field and laboratory work, and seminars/exercises. The students will also gain academic knowledge, skills and gain general competences through project teamwork on field related research activities, writing reports and presentation.

Total lecture hours: 60 hours.
Exercises/lab work: 30 hours.
Fieldwork: 5+2 days.

Compulsory learning activities:
Exercises, laboratory work and fieldwork, project work.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.



Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Research report  
Written exam 4 hours

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.

Only the final grade will be reported, based on an average of the grades from the examination parts.


Application deadline: As soon as possible (June 2015)

Admission of qualified applicants at a first come, first served basis.



Search the UNIS web
Things of interest

Find information about how to become a student at UNIS

Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System
Centre of Excellence in Biology Education

20 MARCH 2015

(Aurora station)


Realtime weather data and downloadable historical data.



Picture from UNIS right now


Like us on Facebook

The University Centre in Svalbard | Pb. 156 | 9171 Longyearbyen, Norway | Tel: +47 79 02 33 00 - Fax: +47 79 02 33 01| Org. 985 204 454 |