AT-301 Arctic Infrastructures in a Changing Climate (10 ECTS)

Cabin threatened by coastal erosion, Bjørndalen. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

Course schedule

2 August 2019
9 September 2019
Autumn semester (August–September), annually.
10 ECTS with AT-801
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”. Jones Ch. L., J. R. Higgins and R. D. Andrew (2000): “Colorado Rockfall Simulation Program, version 4.0”. Lecture notes.
Fieldwork, ca. NOK 400 (2 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AT-301/801 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue. Non-programmable calculator
15 April 2019

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Knowledge of mathematics and physics at bachelor level.

Academic content:

The course is intended for students with interests and background in topics as geotechnics, building materials, dynamics, mechanics and physics.. With the observed climate changes with higher  temperatures, more precipitation and probably higher storm activity, infrastructures have to be designed for projected climate changes. Settlements in the vicinity of steep slopes will be exposed to increasing risk for slope failures, slides in soil and rock, slush and snow avalanches. The course will trough lectures and field trips focus on recognizing sites and terrain exposed to avalanches and slides, and how to plan and protect infrastructures minimizing damage risk.

Specific topics:

  • Introduction to global warming phenomena, amplification effects in the Arctic
  • Observation and modelling of temperature in the ground, and soil thermal properties
  • Design of infrastructures in the Arctic and in a changing climate
  • Probability and consequences of natural hazards
  • General information about avalanches: types, release mechanisms, snow stability evaluation methods, avalanche protection, snow physics, computer programme for avalanche simulation.
  • Field trip devoted to rockfalls and avalanches
  • Field trip devoted to observations of foundation types and frost related damages
  • Planning and design of buildings and structures in snow drift areas

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

Be able to understand weather and climate related geological processes and geotechnical aspects connected to planning, design and protection of infrastructures as buildings, roads, bridges and pipelines in a changing Arctic climate. Have knowledge of the impact of climate conditions and climate change on infrastructures in the Arctic. Understand the influence of climate change on natural disasters as snow avalanches and soil slides,, and rockfalls. Have knowledge of design of buildings and snow drift mitigation structures in snow drift areas.

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

Understand the basic elements of risk assessments and perform simple evaluations of natural hazards during areal planning and design of infrastructure. Apply simple analytical models for avalanches, and apply existing numerical simulation programmes for rockfalls and avalanches.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

Have insight in  engineering practice in relation to Arctic conditions and structures, and amplified risks due to climate change Be able to write and present  design and engineering reports on such issues.

Learning activities:

The course extends over 6–7 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AT-801. Learning activities consist of lectures, seminars, two field excursions, and fieldwork.

Through lectures students will be introduced to academic content of the course.  Lectures are supplemented with exercises referring to “Anderson and Ladanyi, Frozen Ground Engineering” (2004). Fieldwork reports and a report from the numerical modeling of avalanches must be approved in order to sit the exam.

During field excursions the students will investigate different foundation presented in Longyearbyen and Pyramiden. The students will work in small groups, to train team work skills. Based on observations from field excursions the students shall produce a joint report describing observed foundation types and structural failures cause by lack of maintenance and possibly due to warmer climate, and present this to the class.

Fieldwork on rockfalls and avalanches will take place in proximity of Longyearbyen.  From the fieldwork, each student group shall prepare and present a joint report on evaluation of zones exposed to rockfalls and/or avalanche hazards.

Total lecture and seminar hours: 50 hours.
Fieldwork: 2 days.
Field excursions: 3 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Seminars, assignments, fieldwork and field reports and presentation of these.

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: 15 April 2019

Cabin threatened by coastal erosion, Bjørndalen. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

Cabin threatened by coastal erosion, Bjørndalen. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS



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Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
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