AG-330 Permafrost and Periglacial Environments (10 ECTS)

Drilling in permafrost in Svalbard

Spring semester (March–April), every second year. Cancelled in 2021.
10 ECTS overlap with AG-830
Letter grade (A through F)
Curriculum/reading list: Ca. 650 pages
Fieldwork max NOK 1000 (4 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AG-330/830 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

UNIS contact person:

Hanne H. Christiansen

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Students should have general background in Physical Geography or Quaternary geology.

Academic content:

The course has a specific focus on the interaction between permafrost, periglacial processes and climate, and how this interaction controls the different periglacial landforms. The theoretical part will introduce permafrost basics, periglacial geomorphology, and the meteorological control on the permafrost distribution and the activity of periglacial processes and landforms. The course will focus on Arctic and alpine landscapes.

Seminars will deal with papers based on field studies in Svalbard or other cold-climatic regions, to improve the understanding of geomorphological processes, and to demonstrate the use of periglacial landforms to reconstruct past environments and climatic conditions. Discussions will concentrate on identifying the critical questions for future permafrost and periglacial research, and how procedures might be devised to address these questions.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • Comprehensive understanding of permafrost and periglacial landforms and processes, using Svalbard as the field example.
  • Insight into modern research methods and theoretical approaches to understanding processes and impacts of climate on permafrost and periglacial landforms.

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • Skills in various field and mapping techniques, and methods of data interpretation.
  • Training in combining theory with field methods and observations.
  • The ability to analyse existing theories and based on this plan research using relevant methods.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will have aquired competence in:

  • Critical thinking and evaluation of scientific literature on permafrost and periglacial processes
  • Discovering knowledge by own means, and retaining this knowledge
  • Perceiving relations between old and new knowledge, and applying this effectively for solving new scientific problems.
  • Improved communication and critical evaluation skills including logic in scientific analyses.

Learning activities:

The course extends over 5-6 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AG-830.

The course will have a theoretical part with lectures and seminars, and a practical part with excursions and fieldwork. The practical part will emphasise field methods relevant to permafrost-related research such as geomorphological mapping techniques, drilling in permafrost and installation and operation of sensors and data loggers for measuring temperature and other parameters of the active layer and top permafrost. There will be field excursions to permafrost monitoring sites, rock glaciers, talus sheets, ice-wedges, pingos and rock free faces to visit on-going research projects and for collection of field data. The fieldwork and excursions may be subject to change, depending upon the weather conditions.

Total lecture hours: 30 hours.
Exercises: 20 hours.
Fieldwork or field excursions: 4 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Fieldwork, field excursions, field and laboratory exercises, oral presentation of group field report, scientific paper presentations.

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Written exam  4 hours 100%

Application deadline:

Adventdalen Svalbard

AG-330/830 outdoor lecture at the permafrost observatory in Adventdalen. Photo: Ole Humlum/UNIS.

AG-330/830 field excursion, April 2016. Photo: Ole Humlum/UNIS

AG-330/830 field excursion. Photo: Ole Humlum/UNIS.


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The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
E-mail: /
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


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