AS-301 Risk Assessment of Arctic Natural Hazards (10 ECTS)






Cancelled in 2023.

AS-301 on their way to Nordenskioldbreen June 2018. Photo: Thorben Dunse/UNIS

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, NOK 600 (3 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/30 students
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a relevant master programme in natural sciences, environmental sciences, or technology.

Academic content

This course appreciates the multidisciplinary and multifaceted nature of natural hazards in Arctic environments, with focus on Svalbard. In a rapidly changing Arctic that experiences increased population and touristic pressures, risk assessment of natural hazards threatening people’s lives and key infrastructure becomes essential.

A theoretical foundation for quantitative risk assessment, together with an introduction to the geo-, cryo-, hydro-, and biosphere of the Arctic, precedes four applied modules:

  1. Weather hazards: Basic factors characterizing the weather in the Arctic and their impacts on people and infrastructure present in the area will be introduced and discussed; focusing on phenomena like strong winds, low temperatures, and icing on e.g. aircraft, ships and infrastructure. Acquisition and application of weather data for risk assessment will be taught.
  2. Slope hazards: Basic process-controlling factors and their vulnerability to climate change are introduced for Arctic slope processes (snow avalanches, landslides, rockslides). Basic data acquisition methods on analyzing the underlying geophysical processes are applied. Finally, forecasting, prevention, and mitigation measures are discussed and tested.
  3. Biohazards: An overview of Arctic environmental issues, pollution, and biohazards is discussed. An overview of diseases and parasites prevalent in Arctic wildlife is presented. Best practices for mitigating risks related to wildlife encounters are introduced.
  4. Cryohazards: Basic process-controlling factors and their vulnerability to climate change are introduced focusing on sea ice dynamics, glacier dynamics, iceberg production, and permafrost evolution. Basic data acquisition methods for analyzing the underlying geophysical processes are applied and tested. Sea ice dynamics and iceberg production are related to safe Arctic shipping.

Finally, gained analytical knowledge and process understanding is combined to a practical risk assessment exercise.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • describe and explain the basic structure and processes that operate within the Arctic geosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.
  • understand what the major Arctic hazards are and how these vary through space and time, and to which degree climate change affects and controls them
  • appreciate how this knowledge can be applied for sustainable risk management.
  • understand the RO-1 regulations for operating a drone and the ways in which aerial imaging can assist in risk analysis of hazards.


  • search, analyse, and interpret a wide range of field based and remote sensing monitoring data from and about Arctic natural hazards
  • execute a wide range of data acquisition methods for researching different natural hazards
  • perform a quantitative risk assessment of Arctic natural hazards.

General competences

  • gain awareness and appreciation of current research issues, knowledge base, and methodologies that analyze and concern Arctic natural hazards in a changing climate
  • evaluate the risk from diverse Arctic natural hazards in a changing climate and communicate in an informed way to specialists in their respective fields as well as to stakeholders and the public by written and oral means
  • apply the obtained general Arctic hazards competence to lead a diverse group of scientists in a risk assessment project, where their knowledge base and skills facilitate the group’s success.

Learning activities

The course extends over 5 weeks including compulsory safety training. Learning activities consists of lectures, seminars and field excursions.

Through lectures the students will be introduced to methods and theory on how to perform thorough risk analyses of operations in the high Arctic. As a vital input to these analyses, knowledge and understanding of the natural environment will be presented in lectures and seminars, before the students go out on field excursions to actually experience and get hands-on experience in how the natural environment will have an impact on human activity.


  • Total lecture hours: 32 hours
  • Seminar/exercise hours: 53 hours
  • Excursions and fieldwork: Up to 7 days

Compulsory learning activities

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to be registered for the final assessment.

  • Seminars
  • Computer lab work
  • Fieldwork, excursions


  • 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.
MethodPercentage of final grade
Oral poster presentation (group work)60%
Individual essay to be written after the course40%

Student life

AS-301 on their way to Nordenskioldbreen June 2018. Photo: Thorben Dunse/UNIS
AS-301 on their way to Nordenskioldbreen, June 2018. Photo: Thorben Dunse/UNIS