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

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

Course schedule

January 8, 2020
May 28, 2020
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, 2019

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 cost of construction and operation.

Specific topics:

  • Introduction in engineering challenges in the Arctic
  • Permafrost and geocryogenic geological processes
  • Coastal problems in the Arctic
  • Thermal and mechanical behaviour of frozen ground
  • Laboratory investigations of frozen soils
  • Geotechnical survey methods in the Arctic for soil investigation
  •  Approaches for foundation design of infrastructures as buildings, roads, pipelines etc. in permafrost areas
  • Determination of soil parameters necessary for design of foundation for infrastructures
  • 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:

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

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

  • Carry out 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.
  • Carry out field investigations of snow with focus on assessment of avalanche risk.
  • Apply finite element codes for calculation of thermal regime in frozen soils. Write and present research reports.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Have insight in and be able to discuss and design engineering approaches for 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 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 team work 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 rid, 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;
  • snow investigations on a slope within Longyearbyen area. The students will dig a snow peat, and investigate snow profile in order to obtain physical and mechanical properties of snow, and perform basic tests for evaluation of stability of the slope.

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

Lectures and seminars: 80 hours.
Laboratory work: 3 days.
Excursion / fieldwork: 3 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

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


Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Written report on chosen subject 20%
Written exam 5 hours  80%

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: 15 October 2019


Fieldwork in Lia Longyearbyen Svalbard

AT-205 fieldwork in Lia, Longyearbyen. Photo: Jan Otto Larsen/UNIS.

Testing snow stability in Lia Longyearbyen Svalbard

AT-205 students testing the snow stability in Lia, Longyearbyen. Photo: Jan Otto Larsen/UNIS.

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The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
E-mail: /
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


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