AT-331 Arctic Environmental Pollution: Distribution and Processes (10 ECTS)






October 15, 2023


January 08, 2024


February 23, 2024


Spring semester (Block 1: Week 2-8)

Ice fog on Adventfjorden. Photo: Frank Eggenfellner/UNIS.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:None
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/25 students (AT-331/831 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue. Non-programmable calculator.

Contact person

Course requirements

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Students should have a minimum of 10 ECTS in chemistry, and 7.5 ECTS in mathematics.

Academic content

Svalbard is located in a remote area of the Arctic in the highest Northern latitude; however it is still well connected to the rest of the world through dynamic atmospheric and marine currents. The Arctic environment receives contaminants from both long-range transport from mainland Europe, North America and Russia, as well as local anthropogenic inputs from sources such as coal mining and local settlements. Moreover, the Arctic exhibits unique environmental conditions including long periods of Arctic summer and polar night, extreme temperatures, dry air and strong wind. These particular physical conditions will affect the environmental chemistry of contaminants affecting their persistence (lifetime) and distribution in the Arctic environment.  Climate change is expected to play an important, yet unspecified, role in this process.

Specific topics

  • Atmospheric chemistry of the polar environment.
  • Monitoring of greenhouse gases in the Arctic environment
  • The real “POPs” defined: persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic (PBT).
  • Long-range transport of contaminants to Arctic (persistent organochlorines (OCs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides (e.g., DDT), and other compounds like PAHs and metals / organometals and the role of black carbon.
  • Local sources of pollutants in Arctic, Svalbard as a case study.
  • Processes and behavior of Arctic main contaminants.
  • Mercury in the Arctic environment, sources, occurrence, mechanisms of toxicity and impacts.
  • Arctic conditions that affect “P” and “B” in PBT.
  • The role of particles in Arctic atmospheric, Arctic haze.
  • Oil spill in Arctic
  • Soil and snow as sample matrixes to study human footprint in Arctic.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • have basic knowledge of the local and long-range sources of contaminants found in the Arctic
  • have an understanding of the common transportation routes and fate of contaminants found in the Arctic.
  • have an understanding of fate of oil spills in Arctic and cleanup strategies.
  • have advanced knowledge on theoretical methodologies and practical planning for study contaminants in the Arctic (such as trace metals, PAHs and PCBs) through snow and soil studies.
  • have detailed knowledge of how physical-chemical processes in the Arctic work differently in the Arctic than at mid-latitude locations.
  • understand the difference between different types of atmospheric models.
  • have an understanding of factors important and effecting Arctic haze.


  • be able to use the computer models for interpreting environmental pollution data.
  • hold advanced skills of operating passive sampling devices for measuring contaminants in the Arctic environment.
  • have skills in conducting fieldwork under Arctic winter conditions, and have knowledge in collecting samples and preparing relevant samples for chemical analyses of contaminants in different environmental matrices (air, snow, soil)
  • be able to write research proposal for scientific projects and evaluate / assess research proposals. 

General competences

  • know critical factors for successful teamwork and group dynamics.
  • be capable of producing, communicating scientific results.
  • be able to interpret and discuss about scientific data through different learning platforms such as seminars or play role games.
  • use of movie as a tool to communicate about scientific topics. 

Learning activities

The course extends over a period of ca 6 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AT-831.

Fieldwork will include 4 to 5 days of snow sampling from different locations to study both long range atmospheric transported pollutants and local pollutants. Sample areas are selected based on the weather and snow conditions (can include the surroundings of Longyearbyen, Adventdalen, Foxdalen, Sassendalen, Janssondalen, Reindalen, Hiorthhamn, Revneset, Barentsburg). Snow samples will be prepared in laboratory for chemical analyses and conducting measurements of physio-chemical parameters (pH, turbidity, conductivity using ISO routines) and quantification of mercury in fresh snow samples. Samples will also be prepared for further chemical analyses at department of Chemistry at NTNU (Trondheim) for joint student project including digital presentations/animation movie.

Students must participate in seminars and present dedicated topics relevant to the course. 


  • Total lecture hours: 30 hours
  • Project work: 30 hours
  • Modelling (computer) exercises: 6 hours
  • Self-study and preparations: approx. 60 hours
  • Student-led seminars: 15 hours
  • Laboratory work: 15 hours
  • Field work: 4-5 days

The content of the course might be subject to changes due to environmental conditions or unforeseen factors.

Compulsory learning activities

  • Fieldwork
  • Laboratory work including submission of results
  • Project work on project application
  • Human footprint in Arctic, movie

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


MethodDuration Percentage of final grade
Oral exam 45 min100 %

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