AT-205 Frozen Ground Engineering for Arctic Infrastructures (15 ECTS)

Students and researchers at fieldwork in Svalbard, drilling a permafrost core.

January 16, 2023
May 22, 2023
Spring semester (January–May), annually
Letter grade (A through F)
Books: Andersland O. B. and B. Ladanyi (2004): "Frozen Ground Engineering". McClung D. and P. Schaerer (2006): "The Avalanche Handbook".
Fieldwork: NOK 200-400 (1-2 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue. Non-programmable calculator.
October 15, 2022

Course requirements:

60 ECTS within the fields of mathematics, physics, mechanics, or engineering. The applicant must be enrolled in a programme at Bachelor level, or document that the course is approved into the applicant’s current study programme.

The course is intended for students interested in engineering. Knowledge of soil mechanics is an advantage.

The course should be combined with AT-211 Ice Mechanics, Loads on Structures and Instrumentation, and the two courses are designed to complement each other.

Academic content:

Planning of infrastructure and engineering structures in the Arctic is particularly challenging because of the technical constraints imposed by environmental characteristics such as low temperature, permafrost, winter darkness, isolation and high construction and operation costs.

Specific topics:

  • Introduction to engineering challenges in the Arctic
  • Permafrost and geocryogenic conditions
  • Coastal problems in the Arctic
  • Thermal and mechanical behaviour of frozen ground
  • Laboratory investigations of frozen soils
  • Approaches for foundation design of infrastructures as buildings, roads, pipelines etc. in permafrost areas
  • Methods in Slope stability investigations
  • General information about avalanches: types, release mechanisms, snow stability evaluation methods, avalanche protection
  • Field investigations of snow for examination of avalanche risk

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • memorize the distribution of various permafrost conditions on the Earth, and describe cryogenic geological processes shaping general terrain features in cold regions
  • define the physical, mechanical, and thermal properties of frozen soils
  • classify types of foundations for infrastructure in the Arctic, approaches for construction and calculation methods for foundations
  • discuss key topics of modern development in the Arctic: construction of pipelines, coastal erosion processes, and coastal protection
  • explain about avalanche phenomena, mechanics of avalanche release, and protective structures.

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

  • operate laboratory testing of frozen soils for obtaining parameters of mechanical and physical properties of frozen soils used in engineering practice for design of structures in cold regions
  • execute field investigations of snow with focus on assessment of avalanche risk
  • implement finite element codes for calculation of thermal regime in frozen soils
  • organize fieldwork with a focus on data collection, scientific instrumentation involved and action plan for the in-situ experiment.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • develop engineering approaches for the construction of infrastructure in the Arctic.

Learning activities:

The course extends over a full semester. Initially, students attend one week of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training (AS-101).

Learning activities consist of lectures, seminars, excursion, fieldwork for the sampling of frozen samples with subsequent laboratory work, and fieldwork devoted to snow investigations. Field and laboratory work will be performed in small groups, to train teamwork skills. Through lectures, students will be introduced to the academic content of the course. Lectures are supplemented with assignments mainly taken from “Frozen Ground Engineering” (2004).

During the field excursion, the students will investigate different foundation of constructions presented in Longyearbyen.

Fieldwork will consist of:

  • soil sampling from permafrost areas, using industrial drilling rig, and subsequent analyses and tests of samples in geotechnical and cold laboratories. Soil parameters needed for design of foundations and for characterization of soil conditions will be obtained
  • snowmobile excursion to other settlements to study foundations on permafrost and solutions for preserving thermal regime in permafrost in the vicinity of infrastructure. Observation and scientific instrumentation measurements will be implemented;
  • snow investigations on a slope within the Longyearbyen area. The students will dig a snow peat, investigate snow profile in order to obtain physical and mechanical properties of snow, and perform basic tests to evaluate slope stability.

Each student group must write one joint field- and laboratory report on soil sampling, and one joint fieldwork report on snow investigations and infrastructure on permafrost. In addition, all students must write one personal report on a chosen subject. During seminars students will present and discuss results of field and laboratory investigations on frozen soil and snow, and the personal report on the chosen subject.

Lectures and seminars: 60 hours.
Laboratory work: 3 days.
Excursion / fieldwork: 5 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Fieldwork, field reports, field- and laboratory report (soil sampling), and presentation of reports.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Written report on chosen subject 40%
Written exam 4 hours  60%

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.


Application deadline: 15 October 2022


AT-205 students performing lab work at UNIS. Photo: Aleksey Shestov/UNIS.

AT-205 lab work at UNIS. Photo: Aleksey Shestov/UNIS.


AT-205 student fieldwork in Longyearbyen during dark season. Photo: Aleksey Shestov/UNIS.

AT-205 fieldwork in Longyearbyen. Photo: Aleksey Shestov/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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