AG-830 Permafrost and Periglacial Environments (10 ECTS)

Drilling in permafrost in Svalbard

10 ECTS overlap with AG-330
Letter grade (A through F)
Curriculum/reading list: Ca. 650 pages
Fieldwork max NOK 800 (4 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AG-330/830 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a PhD programme in Physical Geography, Quaternary geology or other relevant Geoscience programme.

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 course will give an insight into modern research methods, including field methods and theoretical approaches to understanding processes and impacts of climate on 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:

  • A comprehensive advanced understanding of geomorphic processes in regions with permafrost and periglacial landforms, exemplified by Svalbard.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the geomorphological complexities of cold-climate landscapes.
  • Insight into modern research methods and theoretical approaches to understanding processes and impacts of climate on periglacial landforms.

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • Skills in various field and mapping techniques, and methods of data interpretation.
  • Training in the ability to combine theory with field methods and observations.
  • A capability of analyzing existing theories and to plan personal research using relevant methods.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will have acquired 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 to solve new scientific problems.
  • Be able to communicate and critically evaluate research.

Learning activities:

The course extends over 5-6 weeks including compulsory safety training and is run in combination with AG-330.

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 changes, 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
Oral presentation of chosen topic 33%
Written exam  4 hours 67%

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

Each assessment is graded, and subsequently combined into a single grade. Partial grades for each assessment will be available. 

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
Student inquiries:
E-mail: /
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


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