From local Arctic expertise to national application

Snow observations in Svalbard

Left: Making snow observations in Fardalen. Right: A snow sensor on the mountain Sukkertoppen in Longyearbyen. Photos: Martin Indreiten/UNIS.

DRIVA is a pilot project in collaboration with Telenor Svalbard and UNIS, to improve avalanche warnings in and around settlements.

The DRIVA project, also known as the snow sensor project, started in Longyearbyen in February 2019 and extended to Honningsvåg in October 2020. The project is based on local knowledge,  competence, and use of new technology.

New technology
The snow sensor on Sukkertoppen has Telenor’s Narrowband Internet of Things Technology (NB-IoT) installed. This provides opportunities for measuring and sending data on temperature and snow depths continuously, so that the authorities get a better basis for assessing the avalanche risk. The sensor measures snow depth, temperature and humidity.

Background: Longyearbyen
It was from the mountain Sukkertoppen the fatal avalanche killing two people occurred in December 2015. There was also another avalanche from this mountain in February 2017, luckily not a fatal one, but causing considerable building damage. Over several years, UNIS has been cooperating with Telenor Svalbard on measuring snow drift and avalanche risk. The result may contribute to a better, more factual overview of snow drifts in areas that could present dangers.

We want to have as much information as possible available to make good decisions. These six snow sensors (see map at bottom) will help to create a better overall picture of the avalanche danger.

Background: Honningsvåg
the town of Honningsvåg, in Nordkapp municipality in mainland Norway, experienced a winter storm in January 2020 which resulted in the evacuation of over 70 people, and many of the houses are in ‘red zones’ for avalanches.

UNIS  have performed initial assessments including using a terrestrial laser scanner to make detailed terrain models and advised them where to place the sensors in order to have access to almost real-time snow fall accumulation data for the upcoming winter season. This data can greatly help the community preparedness for avalanches for the upcoming winter season..

In Honningsvåg, sensors are put up in the avalanche-prone areas, where the authorities can monitor snow settlement minute by minute. Two sensors are up and running for the 2020/21 winter season. When the snow reaches a certain limit, one can evacuate homes that are in the danger zone. This sub-project will run over two years.

The Honningsvåg sensor project is a cooperation between the Norwegian Water Resources Management (department Nord), UNIS and Telenor Svalbard.

Read more about the snow sensor project in Honningsvåg here.


Map of snow sensors installed around Longyearbyen

This map shows where the Driva snow sensors are installed in the mountain sides surrounding Longyearbyen.

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